Indian River plant closing postponed

Power grid operator asks for more time for upgrades
September 10, 2021

Plans to deactivate the Indian River power plant may be postponed as the power grid network and plant owners negotiate a plan to extend operations until more transmission upgrades are put in place.

Jeffrey Shields, spokesman for PJM Interconnection, an organization that is part of the Eastern Interconnection power grid, said PJM is committed to maintaining power reliability for the region, and a series of upgrades is needed in order to continue reliable power. 

“A portion of these upgrades, however, holds an estimated in-service date that is after the unit’s anticipated deactivation date of May 31, 2022,” he said. “This includes some upgrade in-service estimates in the 2026 or 2027 time frame.”

During an investor day in June, NRG announced that the coal-burning Indian River plant would be retired along with a few other coal plants in an effort to decrease pollution.

In a letter shared with the Cape Gazette to Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, from NRG Senior Regional Manager David Bacher, Bacher wrote on Sept. 1 that PJM contacted NRG after NRG filed its decommissioning notice, so that PJM could conduct a reliability study.

“Based on their study, they have determined the plant is needed for reliability and is in the process of developing a Reliability Must Run agreement. Bottom line, the plant and jobs will remain in place, the duration is unknown at this time,” Bacher wrote, regarding the plant that employs about 50 people.

Hocker could not be reached for comment.

Shields said a final mitigation plan is expected by Tuesday, Sept. 28. “PJM’s analysis shows wholesale electricity prices associated with the Indian River 4 deactivation appear to remain relatively unchanged so long as the appropriate transmission system upgrades are completed and all other factors remain constant,” he said.

A report on the findings will be made available to the Delaware Public Service Commission, he said.

Shields would not comment on whether there are plans to tie the Ørsted Skipjack Wind Farm into the Indian River power plant, and he referred comment to NRG. NRG spokesman Dave Schrader said NRG’s policy is not to comment on rumors or speculation.

In a 2020 Cape Gazette article, there was talk of Skipjack Wind Farm possibly connecting to the Indian River substation at the head of the Indian River Bay, east of Millsboro, within the Indian River power plant complex. 

The article stated another proposed wind farm in Maryland, U.S. Wind, would be connecting to the grid through this substation. This project calls for 32 turbines, 17 miles due east of Ocean City. The expectation is that U.S. Wind will produce roughly 270 megawatts of power, which according to the company is enough power for approximately 76,000 homes.

According to the PJM website, U.S. Wind has already completed the final phase of the application process – a construction service agreement – to connect to the grid at the Indian River substation about 35 miles northwest of its wind farm site.


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