The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection recently held a hearing on the modification of RC Cape May Holdings LLC’s formerly approved air permit to convert its coal and oil-fired power plant in Beesley’s Point to one that uses natural gas to generate electricity. RCCM received this air permit in 2013 to construct and operate a new facility at the B.L. England site with natural gas.
The modification addresses the need for a backup supply of oil (in this case, ultra-low-sulfur diesel) to be used, if needed, to maintain electric system reliability. This is a requirement of PJM, the regional electric grid operator. Ultra-low-sulfur diesel is used by many power plants to ensure reliability and meet the continued need for electricity during infrequent gas interruptions that may occur in winter months and historically have been less than a few days per year.
This project will feature the combination of a high-efficiency, combined-cycle technology, state-of-the-art air emission controls and clean-burning natural gas — making the new facility one of the cleanest power plants in New Jersey. Once complete, the facility will generate 447 megawatts, enough energy to supply electricity to approximately 480,000 average New Jersey homes.
New Jersey is located in one of only two critical-congestion areas designated by the U.S. Department of Energy. With the upcoming 2019 retirement of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, the need for local generation is significant.
Local generating sources, such as the new facility, are more reliable than high-voltage transmission power lines during weather events that disrupt the transmission system and impact the flow of imported electricity. They stabilize the grid during peak periods to prevent brownouts and blackouts during high summer demand and severe cold, winter-demand days.
Critics of the repowering fail to acknowledge the need for the new facility and the environmental impacts we are experiencing now, as a result of not having a repowered plant.
Without a new plant, the electricity needed to meet existing demands in the South Jersey region must come from somewhere; it will come from older, less-efficient, higher-emitting plants in the PJM system. Some still burn coal or oil, creating significantly higher air pollution emissions.
When compared to grid replacement power, the facility will have a fine particulate matter rate 87 percent lower and a carbon dioxide rate (CO2) rate approximately 50 percent lower. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), the emissions associated with smog and acid rain, will have rates 96 and 99.8 percent lower, respectively. All emission standards will be met or surpassed by the new facility.
We already experience greater negative environmental impacts as a result of not having the repowered plant. We breathe dirtier air today than what we would breathe if the new plant were operating. With continued delays, we continue to face higher air emissions. The conversion of B.L. England to natural gas must move forward — for the good of South Jersey, for its electrical reliability and for its environment.