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Cayuga Power Plant

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's May 9th announcement that coal-fired power plants would be banned in New York State by the end of 2020 may have seemed like the death knell for Lansing's Cayuga Power Plant.  But while the company intends to get out of the power producing business, it wants to become a consumer of over 100 megawatts by transforming the power plant building into a 'cloud' data center. Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne told the Lansing Town Board Wednesday that Heorot Power Vice President of Development Jerry Goodenough has told him that he is willing to sign a statement saying the company will no longer seek to repower the plant with natural gas.  Instead the company plans to transition both its Cayuga and Somerset plants into data centers, with a $100 million capital investment in the Lansing site.

"As diverse as we are in this county, I think a lot of the circles cross on this issue," LaVigne said. "I asked Jerry specifically, 'Will you sign an agreement that you will not re-fire the plant with natural gas?'  He said yes.  They're taking natural gas right off the table.  So there is no longer an issue of trucking, the pipes -- goodbye!  I asked them that specifically because that will take a lot of the angst out of it.  It's a new chapter, a new book, a new story, a new success.  They're going to reinvent themselves."

Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler said the company has applied for a 125 megawatt renewable energy allocation that would come from the hydro-power facility at Niagara Falls, which he noted is the largest renewable energy resource that we have in New York State.

The data center will have large data storage capabilities, and incorporate artificial intelligence capable of analyzing the data for things like predicting component failures in manufacturing, modeling crop increases in production, and so on.  It can be used for large computational modeling such as tracking bird migrations.  the company says it is not targeting Bitcoin or any cyber-currency.

The Cayuga facility is expected to consume 100 megawatts of power, including renewable hydro-power if they can achieve an allotment from the New York Power Commission, plus between 15 and 20 megawatts from its own solar farm on 75 acres owned by the company.  Closing the Cayuga and Somerset plants and re-purposing them as data centers is expected to create a 10 to 1 replacement ratio of fossil fuel to clean energy.  Sigler said he hopes New York State will back the plan.

"It fits the Governor's plan to move away from fossil fuels," he said. "It would be sad to have this power plant sit there and rot.  This would be something that would bring money back on the tax rolls."

The company says the data center will support between 20 and 30 full time jobs with $40,000 to $60,000 annual salaries, plus 100 construction jobs with a $600 million construction budget.  Sigler says the company has data centers, so it has experience needed to  transition from the power generating industry to cloud storage.

"They've already done this," Sigler said. "I asked 'what experience do you have in this?'  They've actually done this in the state of Montana.  they've had a lot of support to do this.  What happened there was they need the same kind of support from our state that they had in Montana.  They need an allocation of power from the the New York Power Authority (NYPA) that will help with the transition to this new data center.  This allocation is essential.  It would be an allocation of power from Niagara Falls. They need it at that cheaper rate to make this happen."

Company officials say that if the plant closes without a 'fair and reasonable power allocation' displacement to the communities would be significant to the tune of the loss of 600 union construction jobs and an additional 96 IBEW jobs.  The loss of revenue to the taxing authorities would be a combined $4 million.

LaVigne said that he hopes at least some of the current power plant employees will be able to transition to the new business, or possibly take early retirement.  He added that he hopes the plant stays busy enough to give employees to exit, if that is what they do, on their own timetable.

"I'm not going to speak for them, but it's a different business now," he said. "The way that I phrase it is they have a better chance going in this direction than not doing anything at all.  Does that mean they're not going to have jobs?  I'm not going to say yes and I'm not going to say no. I'm going to help this business survive and get as much assessed value for the Town and employ as many people as possible.  Whatever happens after that is up to the business."

Company officials say that the data centers will be the largest in the state.

The 155 megawatt Cayuga and  655megawatt Somerset power plants are the last two coal-fired power plants in New York State, so Cuomo's announcement last week targeted the one company. 

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