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Queens Chronicle

Out with the old power, in with new

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Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011 12:00 am

A new power plant is coming to Astoria and residents and local leaders could not be happier.

Plans were approved by the state last Thursday to replace an old facility within Consolidated Edison’s Astoria Complex owned by NRG Energy Inc., with a new cleaner one, the company announced.

David Gaier, a spokesman for NRG, said the new $1.4 billion plant located along the East River will allow the company to produce more energy while generating significantly less pollution.

According to the company, the new plant will allow the companyto reduce peak daytime air emissions by 95 percent while providing power to around 320,000 homes.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) said NRG showed itself to be a good neighbor by listening to Astoria’s demand for clean energy. “The reason I am proud to support NRG’s project is because it is exactly the way we should meet our increasing energy demands in environmental ways,” Gianaris said.

The plant’s five-year construction plan is also expected to create around 700 jobs. “We’re pleased that we’ve received strong support from the community, including Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Environment (CHOKE), hundreds of local residents, and Community Board 1,” Gaier said.

Tony Gigantiello, an Astoria resident and president of CHOKE, said he was in favor of NRG’s repowering project. “Anything that’s about making power plants cleaner, we are all for,” Gigantiello said. He said his community has one of the nation’s highest rates of asthma, thanks in part to the pollution generated by power plants.

However, it is not just Astoria that he is concerned about. “Pollution doesn’t discriminate, it travels,” Gigantiello said, explaining that cleaner energy benefits the entire population.

But why does Astoria have to be home to so many power plants? Lifelong Astoria resident and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said she has wondered about this for years, but at this point, it’s just the way things are. “There is a reality that Astoria houses power plants and infrastructure underneath that provides power for the city and the state,” she said, “obviously we fight not to have an additional power plant, but if it is an old one becoming cleaner, that is a plus for the community.”

Gaier said he does not yet have a timeline for when the plant will be completed. The company is working towards obtaining a long-term power purchase agreement for the electricity that the plant would produce. “Once we have a PPA in place we’d be able to forecast a production schedule,” he said.

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