Earlier this month, the city proposed turning garbage into energy. Now it wants to turn a former garbage heap on Staten Island into an energy farm.
The city is asking private companies to design, build and operate a wind and solar farm on 75 acres of the former Fresh Kills Landfill, Deputy Mayor for Operations Caswell Holloway announced at a Crain’s forum Tuesday morning. It would be the first commercial-grade operation of its kind here.
The energy farm could produce 15 megawatts of power—enough for about 3,300 homes, but a fraction of the 13,000 megawatts the city requires when demand peaks. Still, the farm would double the city’s piddling 6.4 megawatts of solar energy production. Wind production is currently just 50 kilowatts.
“These are the kinds of investments that have to move forward if we’re going to get serious about sustainability,” Mr. Holloway told an audience of business and government executives in midtown.
The request for proposals issued Tuesday is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last-term push—“t-minus 651 days, but who’s counting?” said Mr. Holloway—to bake his environmental agenda into the DNA of the city. The administration has changed the building code to promote cleaner heating fuels and to require landlords to audit their large properties’ energy use.
Mr. Holloway, in his previous post as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, drafted a plan to make roads and sidewalks more water absorbent to limit the overflows that wash raw sewage into New York Harbor when it rains.
Mr. Holloway said Tuesday that the city is informally reviewing the congestion pricing and tolling plan being bandied around town by transportation planner Sam Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz would have the city toll East River crossings and reduce the tolls on bridges that don’t feed into Manhattan’s business district. “We’re looking at it, but we’ll see,” the deputy mayor said.
Mr. Holloway is also putting into place a plan to double by 2017 the amount of garbage diverted from landfills. A key component of that effort is a proposal to turn some of the city’s 10,000 tons of garbage into energy.
The city issued an RFP on March 6 asking companies to build waste-to-energy plants. Environmental advocates are torn over the idea. A few support it, but dozens signed a letter to the mayor opposing it. They said that using heat to convert solid waste to gas could release “mercury, dioxin, and other toxics; particulate matter; and greenhouse gases,” much like conventional incinerators do.
The Bloomberg administration promised it would conduct a thorough environmental review of the project before giving it the go-ahead. Waste-to-energy plants are not considered to be controversial in Europe, where they have pricey pollution controls. In fact, they are widely seen as cost-effective because dumping trash in landfills is so expensive there.
The energy farm, meanwhile, would have to generate power cheaply enough to be economically sustainable. The city does not plan to buy its energy at artificially high prices.
“We’re relying on the marketplace to bring us viable proposals,” Mr. Holloway said before the breakfast. “We want a group of robust proposals. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll have to ask ourselves what the structural impediments are.”
The administration wants to advance as many of its green projects as it can so that New Yorkers will see them as beneficial. At that point it will become “politically untenable” for a new mayor to roll them back, Mr. Holloway said.
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