‘Good news’ and ‘roadblocks’ on Renovo Energy project

KEVIN RAUCH/THE EXPRESS Renovo Borough Council spoke Wednesday with Tom Emero of Innovative Power Solutions regarding the plans for a new local industry, Renovo Energy Center LLC. A plant is proposed for this site, which is the former Pennsylvania Railroad shops.

By KEVIN RAUCH

For The Express

RENOVO — Borough Council received a highly anticipated phone call from Tom Emero regarding the progress of the proposed gas power plant, Renovo Energy Center LLC, during Wednesday’s council meeting.

Emero, director of Innovative Power Solutions, was on speaker phone and gave council an update on plant construction plans at the old railroad yards along Erie Avenue.

He started out with what he called “good news” and ended the 20-minute report explaining some roadblocks the company has hit in the planning stages, prior to beginning to finance the Renovo project.

“The good news is that we continue to work diligently,” Emero said.

He explained the plans are for a two-turbine gas system with each turbine needing to draw 500-plus megawatts of power. Two electric utility companies would be needed — one for each turbine. Renovo Energy Center would run one turbine off the Pennsylvania New Jersey Maryland (PJM) system and the other off New York ISO.

Initially, Renovo Energy has been working with PJM in what has been a rather unexpectedly high dollar proposal for the interconnect. Emero explained the process, calling what has occurred “for the most part expected,” other than the costs.

Emero explained that during the applications to interconnect such a large power source, studies are “very complicated and often initially wrong.”

He said PJM’s initial cost for the interconnect came in at $180 million. Emero’s engineers have gotten that number down to $130 million, but he stressed there was no way he could take a $130 million price tag for a single turbine to the financing stage.

The plan is to continue to chip away at the cost, which he called “way too expensive.”

Regarding the higher-than-expected cost, Emero said one large factor has been the resurgence in the interest of coal. It seems as though he was watching his wording in the explanation, saying it is “not political, it’s literally engineering.”

Still, Emero said, several years ago when the project was born, coal was “frowned upon” and there was an anticipation of coal plants leaving the grid system. Over the last two years, he said, there have been more positive things happening within the coal industry, meaning that space on PJM’s system has not materialized at the expected rate.

“It’s like plugging in an air-conditioner in your house. There has to be enough capabilities on a circuit or you would blow a fuse and it would not work,” he said.

If some potential companies currently doing similar studies would abandon their plans, that would leave more room for the Renovo Energy project, Emero said.

That comment showed the dogged determination of the group as it plans to do whatever possible to bring the Renovo proposal to fruition.

Emero said the next three months will be crucial in the application for Renovo Energy to emerge as planned. He asked to stay in monthly contact with council to keep them abreast of any changes.

He did briefly discuss the possibility of moving forward with a one-turbine plant rather than two. Although he called it a possibility, he said they were not prepared to give up on the dual plant at this time.

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