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Cricket Valley partners with GE to convert to green hydrogen fuel

Critics call power plant’s move ‘greenwashing’
“People who aren’t informed will treat this as things are moving onto a better track when in reality things are not moving onto a better track.” Bill Kish, Stop Cricket Valley Energy member and North East resident

DOVER PLAINS — Several months since the controversial Cricket Valley Energy Center (CVEC) last made headlines, the Dover Plains natural gas power plant announced on Thursday, July 15, that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with General Electric (GE), to help reduce carbon emissions at CVEC’s combined cycle power plant by converting it to a green hydrogen-fueled power plant.

Included in their agreement, CVEC and GE outlined their intent to “develop a green hydrogen technology roadmap” and “advance a demonstration project to reduce carbon emissions at CVEC’s combined cycle power plant… initiating the first step toward the conversion to a 100% hydrogen fuel capable plant,” according to a press release issued by CVEC on the 15th. 

Also included in the agreement, the project will have consultation from both New York State and federal agencies to develop policy guidance related to the production, transport, delivery and storage of hydrogen, as well as guidance from leading hydrogen providers.

Scheduled to start in late 2022, the project is touted as being able to demonstrate the feasibility of converting CVEC’s natural gas-fueled facility to utilize hydrogen. This step is to support New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed in July 2019 with the goal of reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.

Leveraging GE’s knowledge of combustion technology using hydrogen and low-British thermal unit (BTU) fuels, CVEC states the project will be conducted on one of the three GE gas turbines currently operating at CVEC by introducing 5% hydrogen blended with natural gas for several weeks. 

Meanwhile, the hydrogen technology roadmap will be used as a research and development plan for the technical changes necessary for increasing the percentages of hydrogen utilization at the power plant.

The CVEC power plant has come under fire on multiple occasions since it was first proposed and after its construction. This new proposal to convert the plant from natural gas to hydrogen was met with both concern and skepticism from those who have voiced opposition about the power plant in the past.

A member of Stop Cricket Valley Energy (SCVE), North East resident Bill Kish sought to educate residents about the difference between green hydrogen and its “cousins” blue and grey hydrogen by posting information to the SCVE website, www.stopcricketvalley.org/press. 

Likening CVEC’s proposal to a type of “greenwashing,” Kish said, “They’re still burning methane — they’re just committing to experiment with hydrogen a year-and-a-half from now.

“From the standpoint of climate change and the climate emergency, how does it make sense to use renewable energy to produce hydrogen that would then be transported from its source in Dover and then burn that energy to produce electricity?” he asked. “It’s a form of insanity and it truly doesn’t make sense.”

By deflecting the focus away from the pollution and climate disruption taking place at CVEC, Kish said, “The danger is that people will turn their eyes away from Cricket Valley looking at what they see as more pressing problems… People who aren’t informed will treat this as things are moving onto a better track when in reality things are not moving onto a better track.”

Drawing from his expertise as a former director of the New York City Energy Office, Wingdale resident Robert Herzog spoke of how hydrogen is produced. While hydrogen is a cleaner burning fuel, he emphasized that it’s a solution “that’s a long way off and in its very early stages.”

Despite multiple requests for comment, CVEC did not return any of this newspaper’s calls or emails before press time.

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