New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has denied renewal of an air permit to a 107-megawatt (MW) power plant in Yates County that is used to power computer operations for proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining.
In denying a Title V air permit renewal for Greenidge Generation in the town of Torrey, the DEC cited the dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the facility since the passage of the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act driven by “the change in the primary purpose of its operations.”
The power plant originally was fired by coal. The previous owners relinquished their Title V permit in 2021. When it bought the plant and switched fuel primarily to natural gas, Greenidge obtained a five-year Title V permit in September 2016.
The DEC noted that in its original permit application, Greenidge said the generating plant would be used as a peaking plant to sell electricity on a limited basis into the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) market. “At that time, Greenidge did not indicate that it intended to utilize a significant amount of the energy generated by the Facility behind-the-meter for its own purposes,” The DEC said in its letter denying the permit renewal.
In the letter, the DEC goes on to document that between 2017 and 2018 Greenidge did not provide any energy to cryptocurrency mining operations and virtually all energy was used for NYISO peaking purposes. However, that output profile changed over the years, rising to about 10 percent of output for cryptocurrency operations in 2019 to nearly 55 percent in 2021. Meanwhile the overall energy generated by the plant also increased during that period.
In addition, the DEC said that plant’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rose “drastically” over the years to almost tripling in 2020 from its 2017-2019 emissions output.
In its denial, the DEC said the plant’s continued operation would be inconsistent with the statewide statutory limits in GHG emissions because actual GHG emissions from the facility have increased; the rise in GHG emissions is primarily the result of Greenidge’s change in the primary purpose of the plant, and renewal of the permit would allow Greenidge to continue to increase its GHG emissions.
New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, establishes economy-wide requirements to reduce statewide GHG emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
In a statement, Greenidge said it would continue to operate the plant under its existing Title V permit “for as long as it takes to successfully challenge this arbitrary and capricious decision.”
Greenidge also noted that on March 25 its proposed reducing the facility’s permitted GHG emissions by an additional 40 percent by 2025, five years before the 2030 first emissions reduction target date. Greenidge also proposed to be a zero-carbon emitting facility by 2035, five years before the statewide target.
Greenidge further said in its statement that the DEC “never once engaged Greenidge since March 25th to finalize a Permit that would dramatically reduce GHG emissions and preserve upstate jobs.”
In its letter, the DEC acknowledged that Greenidge proposed “limited GHG mitigation measures” and “vague assurances” in its March 25 submission, which was filed after the close of the public comment period, and said those measures “are also insufficient, adding, “They would only provide minimal GHG mitigation and not fully account for the substantial increase in GHG emissions due to the Facility’s change in its primary purpose of operation.”