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Brookhaven Town officials question need for proposed power plant

Caithness proposes building a smaller gas-fired facility next to its existing plant in Yaphank to provide a backup power source.

The Caithness I power plant at the Caithness

The Caithness I power plant at the Caithness LI Energy Center in Yaphank on the afternoon of April 16, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The developer of the Caithness power plant in Yaphank wants to build a second plant next to the existing facility to provide a backup power source for solar and wind farms.

But the project is facing skepticism from Brookhaven Town, and local and state energy officials have said they are not seeking new sources of power on Long Island.

The proposed gas-fired 600-megawatt plant, to be called Caithness II, would be built adjacent to Caithness’ 350-megawatt plant, which opened in 2009.

Officials of the Manhattan-based energy company said in an email the new plant would be available to “supplement renewable energy products — solar and wind — when those resources are not available” because of a lack of wind or sunshine.

The new plant would be capable of ramping up to full power in 45 minutes and would be “the cleanest, most fuel-efficient, and most water-conserving power plant on Long Island and in New York State,” Caithness officials said.

A Long Island Power Authority spokesman said Caithness has not submitted an application for a new plant. LIPA officials have said they do not plan to seek new power sources.

Officials with the state Department of Public Service and state Energy Research Development Authority also said they have not received petitions from Caithness offering a new plant.

The new facility would be smaller than a 750-megawatt plant in Yaphank Caithness also proposed. The Brookhaven Town Board approved that proposal four years ago. It was never built because PSEG Long Island, which manages the power grid for LIPA, said a new facility wasn’t needed in Long Island’s sufficient power supplies.

Caithness is asking the town to OK changes in its approval of the 750-megawatt plant so that plans for the smaller plant can move forward.

Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, who had voted against the plant in 2014, said he was undecided on the new plan. But he questioned whether a new plant is needed and whether the facility would have the required gas supply.

“Where’s your source of gas?” Romaine said in an interview. “At one time, they had talked about tapping into the Iroquois pipeline in the middle of the [Long Island] Sound. . . . I don’t know if they’re still looking at that as a gas source, or if they have a gas source.”

A Caithness spokesman said in an email that “adequate natural gas supply is available from existing interstate gas pipelines to the National Grid system.”

The Brookhaven Town Board will hold a public hearing on the plan at 5 p.m. on June 26 at Town Hall in Farmingville.

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