Talen turns to alternative energy sources | Lifestyles

WASHINGTONVILLE — Talen Energy is making major changes in the coming years to how it generates electricity from and near its Montour steam power plant.

These changes come as the company strives to ensure production is safer for the environment and the plant’s neighbours.

Company officials plan to convert the coal-fired Montour plant to natural gas after 2025, if Talen receives the necessary regulatory approval, the company announced in November.

Before that happens, however, Talen hopes to generate solar power near the Washingtonville-area power plant.

Talen and Pattern Energy, which have built and operate renewable energy facilities internationally, are proposing a 1,000-acre solar farm that will include 100 megawatts of generating capacity, enough to power about 20,000 homes a year.

The Montour Solar One project is independent of the power plant and will not impact plant operations, company officials said.

The proposal to stop burning coal is included in an agreement announced earlier this month with the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association.

Under the agreement, Talen will close its ash waste disposal site at the Montour County Power Plant and pay $200,000 to the association within 60 days of the effective date of the agreement. agreement, which was March 1, to sample streams near coal ash waste sites. , as well as select drinking water wells downstream near the plant.

Talen will also transfer ownership of the Montour Reserve to a non-profit organization or local government within two years of plant shutdown. Along with this, Talen will donate $1 million to the new owner of the reserve for Chillisquaque Lake dam maintenance and other expenses.

While the agreement will ensure the preservation of the approximately 650-acre reserve, Montour County Commissioner Chairman Ken Holdren expressed concern about taking possession of the reserve because, he said , the county could not afford to maintain the dam even with the $1 million payment. He suggested that the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) take it and turn it into a state park.

The Montour Area Recreation Commission (MARC), which cannot legally own property, leases the reserve from the power company for $1 a year, but Talen maintains the dam.

However, all parties will have years to determine who will take over. Talen spokeswoman Taryne Williams said it could be 15 years before the plant closes.

“Right now we have no plans to stop racing,” Williams said recently. “We plan to stop burning coal and convert to an alternative fuel, hopefully gas. In 2025, our intention is to stop burning coal. It could take 10, 15 years (before the factory closes). »

Job reduction expectedThe conversion to natural gas will result in fewer jobs, a company representative told a caller during a telephone town hall in November. Julie LaBella, senior director of regulatory and external affairs, said the number of employees would be lower with gas, but she didn’t have a specific number.

“While gasworks generally require fewer workers, it’s really too soon to tell how our numbers would change, especially with the conversion over four years away,” Williams wrote in an email response earlier this month. this month.

She said about 120 people are currently working at the factory.

The Montour power plant is one of four coal-fired power plants 100% owned by Talen that the company wants to convert to natural gas.

According to a company announcement in November, the plans were developed through discussions with the Sierra Club. In addition to Montour, the coal-fired Brandon Shores and HA Wagner plants in Maryland will cease coal-fired operations by the end of 2025 and be re-powered, pending state approvals.

The Brunner Island generating facility in Talen, York County, had previously committed to switching from coal by the end of 2028, the company said. These plants represent more than 30% of Talen’s total generating capacity, according to the company.

“As part of this effort, Talen and the Sierra Club are working toward an agreement that aims to avoid future coal-related litigation or permit disputes at Talen’s transitioning sites,” the company’s statement said.

Talen was formed in June 2015 through the combination of former PPL production assets and Riverstone, an asset management company, Williams noted. Talen went private through an acquisition by Riverstone in December 2016.

According to the spokeswoman, Talen is a private Independent Power Producer (IPP). An IPP is not a utility, so it cannot recover costs through tariffs. IPPs own generating stations that sell electricity to regional transmission agencies and to commercial, industrial and residential customers.

Likely Solar ApprovalMontour County officials are reviewing their zoning ordinances to ensure residents’ properties and the environment are protected. Solar panel farm approval is likely.

The Montour Solar One solar panel farm is planned for parts of Anthony, Derry and Madison townships.

Jenn Ritchey, senior executive at Pattern, said the project, if approved, would hire a local construction company to hold a job fair as early as May to hire the roughly 130 workers to build the panel field. solar.

“We expect the project to start in the fourth quarter of 2021 and will be one of the largest renewable energy investments in the Commonwealth,” Talen Energy Chairman Alex Hernandez said in a company statement.

After construction, operating the solar field would only require one or two jobs, plus additional seasonal workers for tasks such as vegetation control, Ritchey said.

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