Feb. 20, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
The site of a large gas turbine site in northern Astoria has been sold to an offshore wind developer and Senator Chuck Schumer has praised the deal saying it is an example of “climate justice.”
The Astoria Gas Turbines, which is situated on 20th Avenue in the Ditmars section of Astoria, was recently sold to Beacon Wind, a company that is currently developing a wind farm off the East Coast. Beacon Wind is owned by Equinor, an international energy company based in Norway, and BP, an oil and gas company headquartered in England. The site is within the 300-acre ConEd complex.
The plant was formerly owned by NRG Energy, a Houston-based energy company, that sold the site for $215.4 million to Beacon Wind, according to a report by Crain’s.
When its offshore wind site is operational, known as Beacon Wind 1, Beacon Wind will generate power from the site to Astoria Gas Turbines which will, in turn, be fed into New York City’s electric grid, a spokesperson for the company told the Queens/Astoria Post.
Schumer said the sale will create green jobs and ensure that the site produces clean energy.
“For too long, the people of western Queens have borne the brunt of the consequences of being home to far too many of New York’s pollution-belching power plants,” Schumer said. “A rebuilt NRG plant would have been detrimental to the community, but this new project will bring cleaner air and family-supporting jobs to the community.”
Beacon Wind has also applied to the state to construct a second wind farm off the East Coast, which, if approved, would also be fed into the Astoria Gas Turbines site, according to the company.
“This purchase will provide the Beacon Wind project with a location to support future development… with the potential to bring offshore wind… directly to New York City… giving Queens a leading role in the state’s energy transition,” a statement from Beacon Wind reads.
The sale comes after NRG Energy failed to get state approval to replace its aging gas and oil-fired turbines with a natural gas-fired plant. NRG said the generator would have significantly reduced its carbon footprint at the site.
However, activists argued that the facility would still be dependent on fossil fuels, with NRG relying on natural gas obtained by fracking. They said the site would still pollute the area, which has become known as “Asthma Alley,” since residents have higher-than-average rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses.
NRG’s efforts to convert the site were opposed by renewable energy activists, including a host of Queens lawmakers such as Schumer, state Senators Michael Gianaris and Jessica Ramos, Assembly member Zohran Mamdani and Council member Tiffany Cabán.
The sale also comes less than three months before the existing plant must be retired in order to comply with Department of Environmental energy efficiency laws. Come May, the plant will no longer meet state-level restrictions on nitrogen oxide emissions.
NRG sought to revamp the site before the May deadline but its plans to reconfigure the plant were rejected by the state.
The DEC concluded in Oct. 2021 that NRG’s plan failed to comply with the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a 2019 law that established a mandate to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Many environmentalists say that human-produced greenhouse gas emissions — driven mostly by carbon dioxide emissions — are causing the earth to warm and need to be drastically cut while skeptics say that climate change is driven by natural factors such as the sun.
The act calls for an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040 and 70% renewable energy by 2030.
The plant is not the only station in western Queens that is set to transition to renewables.
The Ravenswood Generating Station, located north of the Queensboro Bridge, is also expected to be powered by offshore wind energy in the future.
BREAKING: After years of successful organizing with a broad coalition of local leaders & elected officials to block NRG Astoria Gas Plant, NRG will sell the site to Equinor—an offshore wind developer creating CLEAN energy & good GREEN jobs
This is what climate justice looks like
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 16, 2023