EBP energy supplier acquired

The district energy system that serves more than 100 commercial and industrial customers and 5,500 employees at Eastman Business Park has been acquired for $260 million.

Ironclad Energy Partners LLC, an affiliate of Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, has agreed to sell 100 percent of its indirect equity interests in RED-Rochester LLC and affiliates to SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust (SEEIT) plc.

RED is one of the nation’s largest district energy systems and it has continuously served the 1,200-acre EBP and its customers with their utility needs for more than a century. RED serves customers with its efficient and environmentally friendly tri-generation plant, delivering 16 different utility services including steam, chilled water, electricity and more.

“As a New York-based asset manager, Stonepeak is pleased to have had the opportunity to support a successful transition of the RED assets and to meaningfully contribute to the ongoing revitalization of the Finger Lakes Region of New York,” said Stonepeak Senior Managing Director Luke Taylor in a statement. “We are confident that the new owners will continue our efforts to drive environmentally-conscious growth within the Eastman Business Park.”

Upon acquisition in 2016, Stonepeak and Ironclad committed roughly $80 million of additional capital to execute on the conversion of RED’s coal-fired central plant to modern natural gas boilers. The brownfield project was delivered in 18 months, on time and on budget and without disruption to customers, officials noted. Following the completion of the natural gas conversion, Stonepeak and Ironclad committed additional capital to further modernize RED’s facilities, completing more than 40 efficiency projects during the four-year ownership period, and identifying more than 100 additional projects for future execution.

Through executed and identified projects, RED is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions within EBP by the equivalent of an 880MW photovoltaic solar installation and will reduce sulfur dioxide and NOx emissions by roughly 99 percent and 60 percent, respectively. SDCL expects to continue the modernization and efficiency efforts under its ownership, which are expected to continue delivering both increased profitability and emissions savings via fuel usage reduction.

“SEEIT is acquiring an operational and established district energy system that provides a range of essential and efficient energy services and utilities to a diversified customer base on one of the largest business parks in the United States of America,” said Jonathan Maxwell, founding partner and CEO of SDCL. “We expect the project to make positive contributions to SEEIT’s earnings and cash flow. At the same time, the project offers the potential for growth over the medium to long term through the addition of new customers and the implementation of accretive energy efficiency measures.”

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021, following receipt of customary regulatory approvals.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Power producer at Eastman Business Park wins $5 million in state carbon challenge

 The utility company that modernized energy production at the former Kodak Park and turned it away from coal has won $5 million from a carbon-reduction contest run by New York State.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Friday that Recycled Energy Development-Rochester LLC, known as RED-Rochester, was one of the two winners in the first round of the Commercial and Industrial Carbon Challenge.

International Paper in Ticonderoga also won $2.8 million for its reduction efforts. The companies have committed to reducing a total of nearly 850,000 tons of carbon in the next 15 years. RED-Rochester installed four natural gas boilers and converted an old coal-fueled boiler to natural gas to curtail carbon emissions while serving business clients at Eastman Business Park.

“Reducing carbon emissions is a critical piece of New York’s comprehensive strategy to combat climate change on all fronts,” Cuomo said. “We are proud to invest in New York companies that are committed to advancing clean energy projects in support of the State’s green economy and path to a carbon-neutral economy.”

According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency, commercial and industrial buildings account for 33 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in New York.

“The Carbon Challenge offers a unique opportunity to simultaneously reduce CO2 and invest in the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of Eastman Business Park,” said RED-Rochester President Craig E. Bennett. “It furthers our commitment to the environment and enhances our ability to attract and retain new industrial customers which create jobs and increases the tax base.”

In the next round of the carbon challenge, NYSERDA is making $15 million available for the competition. The deadline to apply is July 26. Information is available on the NYSERDA website.

[email protected]/(585) 363-7275

Eastman Business Park celebrates switch from coal to natural gas

When George Eastman started building Kodak Park in 1891, the first building constructed in the former orchard was a power plant.

Such was the importance of energy to the camera and film manufacturer.

In 2018, energy is still critical and now underlies the renaissance of the former Kodak Park as Eastman Business Park. The park is home to 110 companies and 6,500 employees.

“We are very excited about manufacturing coming back as a really relevant part of that growth,” said Dolores Kruchten, president of Eastman Business Park. Nearly all the speakers who came to celebrate the natural gas-powered energy project unveiled Tuesday remarked on the importance of energy to bringing more companies and more jobs to the business park.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in a tent overlooking building 371, which has actually been creating power with gas since March. The low-slung blue building in view of the event tent was dwarfed by a neighboring blue building, which had been the coal-fired power plant for the park until late last winter. The transition means the end to 127 years of burning coal at the site.

“With this park and with this new plant, our world really is endless,” said John Prunkl, CEO of Ironclad Energy Partners, the parent company of RED-Rochester, the company delivering power to other businesses at the park.

Craig Bennett, president of RED-Rochester, said switching over from coal to gas without interrupting the energy flow to Eastman  Business Park customers was a little like “changing your tire while going down the highway at highway speeds.”  But with lots of local construction help and plant operators with 30 and more years’ experience, the transition was made.

The switch-over brings significant environmental benefits – reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions by 99 percent, carbon dioxide by 50 percent, particulates by 80 percent, Bennett said. The cut in pollutants isn’t just theoretical, he said. “It’s happened, it’s in place and we’re enjoying the benefits.”

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said she grew up within walking distance of Kodak Park and is happy to see manufacturing jobs start to return along with the cleaner air.

“For me, it’s always about jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs.  We want people to live and prosper in Monroe County,” she said. When companies consider relocating to the area, Dinolfo said, “they want to know about the cost of doing business. Energy is part of the cost of doing business.”

Kruchten said the pipeline of companies interested in the park now is fuller than it has ever been in her three years working there. The steam generated by the power plant is prized by food processors and other manufacturers, she said.  The chilled water capabilities can be used to cool buildings or in manufacturing processes, she said.

Business park officials said the $75 million conversion project is the largest investment that has been made in the industrial park in more than 30 years.

[email protected]/(585) 363-7275

Coal era ushered out at Eastman Business Park

With the chug of an engine, and the clanging of steel against steel, an era at Kodak ended.

Tuesday morning, crews who work the power plant at Eastman Business Park—once teeming with gigantic operations for making film and now home to 100 different smaller companies—unloaded the very last train car of coal.

The power plant has been fired by coal for about 100 years but is switching to cleaner, less expensive natural gas.

“This place has well over 100 years of history,” said John D. Prunkl, CEO of Ironclad Energy, the parent company of RED Rochester, the enterprise that owns and operates the utility system at the former Kodak Park.

Worker pose for a historical photo by the last trainload of coal at Eastman Business Park
Worker pose for a historical photo by the last trainload of coal at Eastman Business Park

Discussions on transitioning to gas began about five years ago, Prunkl said, about the time that federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations went into effect requiring more stringent air pollution controls. The company decided switching to cleaner gas, which will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent, was more affordable than installing air pollution scrubbers, Prunkl said. The project cost $80 million.

RED Rochester brought in new gas boilers last May and one of the three coal boilers—the most modern, built in the 1980s—has already converted to burning gas. The two 1960s-era model boilers will be shut down once the last of the coal is burned. Tuesday’s carload is expected to last until the end of the week.

With media crews and a few railway enthusiasts looking on Tuesday, the crews emptied a 100-ton carload of coal. An engine pushed the coal car into an open-sided shed for unloading. But on a day when temperatures ran several degrees below freezing, the open train car of gravel-sized coal wasn’t flowing like sand through an hour glass. Icicles clung to the underside of the car, where three doors were latched shut. Workers banged on the latches with tools to get the doors open, allowing the coal to obey the laws of gravity. Some coal fell out into hoppers below the tracks. But a ceiling-mounted crane then dropped a plate of steel into the car repeatedly to encourage the bulk of the coal to break up. The process took about a half-hour.

With no coal to unload anymore, the workers will focus on different boiler operation skills, Prunkl said. “We’ve got lots of employees with 40-plus years of experience,” he said, and the company expects to lower its workforce some by natural attrition. The power plant operators have  been retrained to operate the gas system, and as they retire will retrain others. “We’re not kicking anybody out,” he said.

With changing economics and new supplies developed in Pennsylvania, gas became a more attractive option, Prunkl said. More renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, wouldn’t have worked at Eastman Business Park for several reasons, he said. The demands for electricity in the business park are too steady for intermittent sources such as wind and solar power. In addition, customers rely on the power plant for steam as well as electricity, and renewables don’t create steam in the generation process.

[email protected]/(585) 363-7275