BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – After a year-long planning process, seven possible re-uses for the former NRG Power Plant in Dunkirk were presented to the public Tuesday evening, but more are possible.
Originally known as the Niagara Mohawk Power Plant, the facility operated from the 1950s until 2015. Decommissioning began last year.
Officials said Dunkirk took a huge hit when it closed, losing about 40% of its tax base and 150 well-paying jobs at its peak. They are now looking at how to bring back the site as a sustainable economic driver that would revitalize the waterfront region once again.
“It was a massive facility. That was the hardest part of it,” Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel told WBFO.
“That says a lot to the disparity of what happened. There was never a decommissioning plan, there was never an intent that this plant would be mothballed. You know, the governor has his options of trying to get away from fossil fuels, but we know quite honestly that solar and wind are not gonna generate the power we need, whether it’s the Western New York economy or statewide or nationally. There’s gonna have to be some reliance on fossil.”
Wendel said what’s unique about the site is that one of the first natural gas wells was developed in nearby Fredonia and that “history was kind of thrown away, as well.” He said that natural gas would have been a good source of “clean, cheap and efficient” energy.
He does not have a preference among the re-use proposals presented, but said there remains huge potential.
“We talked about one piece there, about a micro-grid, whether it’s the Dunkirk municipality creating an energy station for themselves,” Wendel said. “My looking into it deeper, you know, what is the status of those two gas turbines that are there? There’s equipment in there and what’s the value of that? Would that be beneficial to the city? And what can we do from there?”
Now that the proposals are out there, Wendel said he wants to move quickly — in months, not years — toward a re-use that satisfies the many community, local and state parties impacted by the project.