US electricity provider PSEG Power has officially opened its newest power generating facility with a gathering of company and New York officials at the 750 megawatt Bethlehem Energy Center.

The Bethlehem facility is a natural gas-fired, combined cycle power plant that replaces the more than 50-year-old Albany Steam Station, a 385 megawatt oil-fired facility that was retired in February to make way for operation of the new facility. Bethlehem is expected to start commercial operation in July 2005.

Bethlehem will produce almost twice as much energy as the retired Albany Steam Station, while providing dramatic reductions in air emissions of smog-causing nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), the pollutant most associated with acid rain. NOx emissions will be cut 97% and SO2 by about 98%. In addition, Bethlehem’s closed-loop cooling system will cut use of Hudson River water by about 98%.

Construction of the new plant started in June 2002. PSEG Power New York, a subsidiary of PSEG Power, one of the nation’s largest independent power producers, acquired Albany Steam Station from Niagara Mohawk in 2000 and subsequently announced plans to build a new facility on the site and retire the existing plant. Bethlehem was one of the first generating projects to be approved and permitted under New York State’s Article X siting legislation.

We are extraordinarily proud of this facility, said Frank Cassidy, PSEG Power president and chief operating officer, and the productive partnership among our company, the state, and the local community that made it a reality.

However, Cassidy’s upbeat assessment of the plant’s opening has skirted over the fact that the facility is yet to secure contracts for its output, according to Although Bethlehem is already feeding power to the grid, it is currently being purchased from the state’s wholesale market. As a result PSEG officials have been cagey about short term earnings.