Dunkirk Steam Station

From Global Energy Monitor

Dunkirk Steam Generating Station is a retired 627.2-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station operated by Dunkirk Power LLC near Dunkirk, New York.


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Plant Data

  • Owner: Dunkirk Power LLC
  • Parent Company: NRG Energy
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 627.2 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: Unit 1: 96.0 MW (1950), Unit 2: 96.0 MW (1950), Unit 3: 217.6 MW (1959), Unit 4: 217.6 MW (1960)
  • Status: Retired
  • Location: 106 Point Dr. North, Dunkirk, NY 14048
  • GPS Coordinates: 42.489775, -79.346674
  • Technology: Subcritical
  • Coal type: Sub Bituminous
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:
  • Unit Retirements: A decommissioning process reportedly began in 2020. The City of Dunkirk referred to the plant as closed in June 2021.[1]

Plant Idled

NRG idled the coal plant in January 2016. It has been on reserve service only since 2012.[2] EIA lists the status of all 4 units of the plant as "(OS) Out of service and NOT expected to return to service in next calendar year".[3]

Conversion or Retirement

In 2015, NRG said it plans for the Dunkirk plant to be converted to natural gas, but to allow it to continue to burn coal as a back-up fuel. The proposal is being challenged in court. According to IEEFA, New York would like to keep the plant online due to local government reliance on the property taxes that the plant generates.[4]

In November 2015, a report by the New York Independent System Operator, done with National Grid, found the Dunkirk plant could be mothballed as early as January 2016 without power disruptions, after some transmission updates. NRG is still planning on making the plant gas-fired, while critics say the money would be better spent on efficiency and transmission upgrades.[5]

However, in July 2018 NRG Energy said it will not restart its Dunkirk power plant, because the cost to reconnect the facility to the state’s electric grid prohibits reopening the retired coal-fired plant as a natural gas-fueled facility.[2]

In 2019, the city of Dunkirk received a $60,000 grant for a feasibility study to restore use of the NRG plant facilities.[6]

In June 2021, the City of Dunkirk and Chautauqua County, along with their consultant, Bergmann, presented key findings of the NRG Power Plant Feasibility Study and Alternatives Analysis. The decommissioning process reportedly began in 2020. One of the seven potential uses for the site was as a data center. The report noted that this use would reuse existing infrastructure, have a lower environmental remediation cost, strong renewable energy component, and there were successful comparable projects in other parts of New York. However, it acknowledged a high amount of power and investment cost would be necessary. Consultants Bergmann Group said either a data center or a mixture of industrial use and data center were the preferred re-use concepts as they can reuse some existing buildings while also make potential use of solar, biomass, and battery storage at the time same. Long-term job creation opportunities, as with many data center projects, would be low. Other potential uses for the site could included conversion from coal to a natural gas power plant; general industrial development; battery storage site; interconnect for future offshore wind projects on Lake Erie; microgrid development; or a complete $38 million ‘clean slate’ where all current buildings would be demolished and environmental remediation work carried out in order to create more re-use options.[7]

As of November 2021, at least one unit of the plant was formally retired.[8] 2022 plans from the regional Industrial Development Agency discussed replacing the shuttered plant with a 270 MW solar farm.[9]

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 3,565,229 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 10,072 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 2,833 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 117 lb.

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Dunkirk Steam Station

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[10] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[11]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Dunkirk Steam Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 32 $230,000,000
Heart attacks 54 $5,900,000
Asthma attacks 480 $25,000
Hospital admissions 25 $570,000
Chronic bronchitis 19 $8,200,000
Asthma ER visits 22 $8,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

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