By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO March 19, 2002 Theres the performing arts center in Bethel, the Concord Resort in Kiamesha Lake, two casinos in the Town of Thompson and a Home Depot, Applebee's and an Auto Zone at the former Ames Plaza in Monticello.
Sounds like a lot of big projects ... but wait: a new player is looming on the horizon.
A company called Calpine has expressed some interest in opening a power plant on less than 20 acres behind the Sullivan County Landfill in Monticello. Some of that property is owned by the county.
On Monday, March 11, several officials traveled to Westbrook, Maine (near Portland) to visit one of Calpine's factories and to meet with their administrators and local officials. The purpose was for Calpine staff to apprise the Sullivan County contingent of their plans, show them what they have in mind, and try to appease any environmental fears.
"I was impressed with how environmentally friendly the plant is," commented County Manager Dan Briggs. "There is a great need for energy in New York State. There is a shortage. When more companies come in, there will be an increased need for energy."
"It was a very worthwhile trip," remarked Legislator Rodney Gaebel. "I think we were all impressed. They are environmentally friendly. They were all they claimed to be."
Those on the trip were Briggs, Gaebel, Legislators Leni Binder and Jim Carnell Jr., County Attorney Ira Cohen, Sullivan County Planning and Community Development Commissioner Alan Sorensen, Sullivan County Department of Public Works Commissioner Peter Lilholt, and Town of Thompson Board Member Bill Rieber. Lilholt attended instead of Village of Monticello Mayor Gary Sommers, as Sommers had a prior commitment. The group left on a plane from the Sullivan County Airport.
"It went very well," Sorensen stated. "It was very informative. We were very impressed with their operation. It was very clean."
"It opens a window of discussion," Carnell said. "They are a serious player in the energy market."
Calpine has approxiamately 50 power plants throughout the country. There are another 30 currently under construction.
Their plants are combined cycle plants, meaning that they tap into natural gas to produce electrical energy in much the same way a jet engine does. If they were to set up a plant in the county, they would hook into the Columbia Gas Transmission Millennium pipeline running underneath the western and southern edges of the county. They would also be connected to the Marcy-South power lines in order to transmit the newly generated electricity.
The plant would be a 540-megawatt power plant and would have enough energy to light half a million homes. Unlike the other plants, the Sullivan County one would be air cooled and not water cooled. That would eliminate smoke and create a more environmentally friendly plant, said officials.
The plans for Monticello are in the very early stages. The Calpine officials wanted to meet with the countys representatives to see their reaction and get support for the project.
They seem to have succeeded.
"The plant is immaculate," Binder offered. "It would not be visible from the road. It was not what we pictured. We all noticed how extremely quiet it was."
However, Cohen pointed out that, usually, the county might not be an active participant in those plans.
"Under Article 10 of the Service Law, the county would have little to say on the project. We are fortunate that we have more to say because the county owns the property. [Otherwise], it would be in the hands of the governor.
"The plant was state-of-the-art," Cohen continued. "It was a very clean and safe facility. It was quiet, clean, and very impressive. There is a need in New York for more new plants."
More discussion on the project is expected at the next Sullivan County Legislature's Department of Public Works meeting on Thursday, April 4.