NRG Looks to Modernize Sandwich Plant

COURTESY OF NRG ENERGY The current plant in Sandwich.

The current plant in Sandwich.

SANDWICH – NRG Energy is looking to modernize the Canal Generating Plant in Sandwich.

The owners of the plant are looking to add a state-of-the-art natural gas and oil turbine that would be used during peak energy usage along with a community solar farm.

“We think the permitting for the turbine will take about two years and construction of about two years,” said NRG Energy East Region Spokesman David Gaier. “We would like to be online by the summer of 2019.”

The new 330-megawatt turbine would be added to the plant’s two older power generating units, which were commissioned in 1967 and 1976, according to Gaier.

A computer generated image of the possible turbine addition.

A computer generated image of the possible turbine addition.

“These are operated and heated by big steam boilers and they can take up to 12 hours to start up,” Gaier said. “They are still very dependable, very reliable sources of power.”

Gaier said the proposed turbine has a distinct advantage over the older generators.

“The beauty of this new 330-megawatt gas turbine is that it can ramp up to full power in 10 minutes,” he said.

Gaier said the unit will only be used when the grid operator feels the grid needs additional power. If another generating unit elsewhere goes down, this unit would be able to provide more power to the grid quickly, he said.

“We will find, I think, that it will be operating more on very hot or very cold days,” he said. “And that is why it is called a peaker plant because it tends to be called on in times of peak demand.”

Overhead view of the potential additions to the plant.

Overhead view of the potential additions to the plant.

Gaier said another benefit to the turbine project is the plant will be able to take advantage of the existing infrastructure at the Canal Generating Plant.

“We don’t need a new gas line. We don’t need a new electrical substation and we don’t need additional fuel storage tanks,” he said.

In the winter months the facility might not be able to get enough natural gas to run the turbine due to the lack of availability in New England.

“We will have a backup liquid fuel, ultra-low-sulfur diesel, and that will insure that we can operate this unit when needed in peak demand,” Gaier said.

Gaier said there are a number of permits that need to be obtained before work can begin to install the new turbine including an environmental impact report under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act; a decision about regional impacts from the Cape Cod Commission; approval of the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Sighting Board; and other various permits from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the town of Sandwich.

The 1.5-megawatt solar farm project would take considerably less time and could be online as soon as the third quarter of 2016, according to Gaier.

“It would be what’s called a community solar project,” he said. “Let’s say, instead of you putting solar panels on your roof, you would become a subscriber to the community solar farm,” he said. “A number of homeowners, and potentially small businesses would sign up to participate and to take energy from the solar farm which would be, what’s called “net metering,” which would credit against their regular usage from their local utility.”

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