Weekly Feature



2017-11-08 / Front Page

Town re-imagines Huntley plant

by HOLLY N. LIPKA
Reporter

The Town of Tonawanda is looking for potential developers to repurpose the former coal-fired NRG Huntley Power Plant into a renewable energy development, which would restore lost tax revenue and return jobs to the area.

To solicit interest, the town issued an Expression of Interest statement, announced at a press conference outside the facility on Nov. 1.

“We are determined to see Huntley repurposed and put to beneficial reuse on the Tonawanda waterfront,” said Supervisor Joseph Emminger. “Huntley’s owner shares the same interest and would like very much for the site to be repurposed and back in productive use.”

When the Huntley Generating Station — one of the few remaining coal-fired power plants in New York State — closed its doors in March 2016, the town, the Ken-Ton School District and Erie County lost $6 million in annual tax revenue, as well as 79 jobs.

State and local leaders believe the development of a renewable-energy project will create jobs and help restore this revenue to the town, school and county tax rolls.

“Not only will our community benefit, but the broadened tax base will allow the district to continue to fund programs appropriately and lessen the tax burdens on our homeowners,” said John Brucato, assistant superintendent for finance at the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District.

A clean energy project will also follow the state’s new Clean Energy Standard, which mandates that 50 percent of all electricity consumed in New York should come from clean and renewable energy sources by 2030.

“Repurposing the Huntley site will act as a national model for the effective reuse of a former fossil fuel site,” said Emminger. “It could be solar or some other type of renewable energy source.”

The site on River Road offers many advantages to energy companies, such as the existence of a National Grid switchyard and grid connection, immediate access to Interstates 190 and 290, a rail spur to a main rail line, water access and a water treatment facility.

“Given the infrastructure within and around the Huntley footprint, the right energy project could be a win-win-win for the town, the state’s energy grid and local taxpayers,” said state Assemblyman Robin Schimminger.

David Gaier, senior director of communications and NRG spokesman, said NGR, as the property owner, is also developing its own marketing plan and will issue its own separate request for proposals from developers in the near future.

“While we can’t predict what the eventual use will, we believe the site could be redeveloped and adapted in a variety of ways, with renewable energy being just one,” said Gaier. “Many others are possible.” 

Proposals for the project will be accepted through Jan. 10, so the town can quickly provide a permanent solution.

“We are determined not to allow Huntley to become like Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, sitting and decaying for decades, and an eyesore on the Tonawanda waterfront,” said Emminger. “We cannot and will not wait for outside forces to dictate our future.”

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