TOWN OF NEWBURGH – Danskammer Energy’s $500 million proposal to modernize the River Road peaker-power plant into a full-time facility includes plans to convert it to green hydrogen power by 2040.
The company is in talks with Mitsubishi, which designed the plant’s turbines, and other developers on the green hydrogen aspect of the project. The plan is calling for a transition to 30 percent green hydrogen power by 2030 and a complete transition by 2040.
But Danskammer opponents, such as Food and Water Action, have said the company’s hydrogen plans are a form of “greenwashing” or an attempt to mislead the public about the environmental effects of the project.
Food and Water Action is the activism arm of the environmental nonprofit Food and Water Watch and has led organized efforts condemning the project, including several local protests over the past few months and other types of demonstrations.
A “die-in” protest outside Danskammer Energy’s Town of Newburgh offices was planned for Thursday evening by Food and Water Action.
Organizers were planning to demonstrate in the rain, but tornado threats in surrounding areas pushed them to cancel. It has been rescheduled for Sept. 2 at 5 p.m.
Creating ‘green’ hydrogen
The caveat to Danskammer’s hydrogen plans is that the plant needs a hydrogen source, said Michelle Hook, vice president of public affairs for Danskammer Energy.
Hydrogen can come from natural gas, but it isn’t really “green” unless it is created using renewable sources, such as solar or wind energy, she noted.
“Until we have enough renewable development available to create the hydrogen, that’s sort of the conundrum we’re in,” Hook said. “… As the state builds out, we’re hoping to work with either some of the state agencies, or with wind or solar developers directly, or a company that is a hydrogen producer.”
Solar or wind energy, mixed with water put through an electrolysis machine that separates the hydrogen and oxygen molecules, creates power from the hydrogen. Emissions associated with it contain some water vapor and oxygen, Hook explained.
Using hydrogen as a power generator hasn’t been done before in the U.S. but it is doable, Hook said, and pointed to examples of successful projects in Australia and Europe.
While the state catches up with renewables, Hook said, there will be a need for dispatchable, or on-call power that Danskammer could provide using natural gas – especially after the Indian Point Energy Center closes in April.
The proposal for the Danskammer project is still in the state’s application phase.
Local support and opposition
Food and Water Action has pushed 23 Hudson Valley municipalities to pass symbolic resolutions condemning Danskammer Energy’s proposal. The host communities, that includes the Town of Newburgh, Marlboro school district and Orange County, however, have publicly supported the project.
The group also released a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in July signed by about 150 elected officials asking the governor to reject Danskammer’s proposal.
“Danskammer is grasping at straws, pushing deceptive PR that is nothing more than fossil fuel industry greenwashing,” Emily Skydel, Hudson Valley organizer for Food and Water Action, said in a statement Friday.
“The hydrogen technology they are claiming they will eventually use doesn’t even currently exist. We should judge their proposal at face value, which if approved, will import and burn fracked gas from Pennsylvania. Governor Cuomo cannot approve this project if he is truly serious about meeting New York’s climate goals.”