BELD makes another pitch for new power plant in Braintree
A possible new power plant for Braintree would not begin construction until 2019 and start commercial operation until June 2020, according to William Bottiggi, general manager of the Braintree Electric Light Department (BELD).
Bottiggi told town councilors Aug. 16, following up on a presentation he made to the municipal light board May 18, that BELD will participate in the next forward capacity auction with ISO-New England, scheduled for February.
This was done by submitting a show of interest to ISO-NE, an independent, non-profit regional transmission organization that serves Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont in addition to Massachusetts.
At some point, a motion could be presented to the town council which, if approved, would authorize BELD to borrow at least $103 million for the new power plant.
“We wouldn’t need to borrow money until the fall of 2017,” Bottiggi said, adding that engineering and site preparation would be expected to launch in 2018.
This authorization, however, would be dependent on BELD clearing the forward capacity auction next winter.
BELD previously emphasized that building a new power plant would only make sense if during this upcoming auction, the clearing price for capacity was high enough to cover the fixed costs of maintaining the unit.
In a presentation he made to the light board March 1, Bottiggi summarized BELD’s options along with their risks and projected financial impact.
“The two most viable options are to continue to operate and maintain Potter II (in commercial operation since 1977) or build a new power plant,” he said then. “It does not make financial sense to retire Potter II and not replace it or convert Potter II into a simple cycle power plant. We have gotten to this conclusion over the last few months of working with our engineering consultant and many subcontractors.”
Light board members unanimously support the new power plant option.
According to Bottiggi, performing enhanced maintenance on Potter II as it currently is configured would only extend its life by up to 10 years.
On the other hand, converting Potter II into a simple cycle power plant would require the removal of its 40-year-old boiler, air cooled condenser and steam turbine. Installed in its place would be up-to-date pollution control equipment that would allow the plant in its new configuration to meet current emission standards.
Another option would be to continue with the plan submitted to the council last year that would replace Potter II with a state-of-the-art gas turbine.
Last fall, light board members decided not to ask the council for authorization to borrow $95 million for a Watson III power plant, but made it clear they hadn’t given up for good on finding a way to provide what Bottiggi described as safe, reliable and economical electricity.
When he initially appeared before the council on May 11, 2015, Bottiggi cited wear and tear on equipment, outdated technology and emissions higher than today’s standards as reasons why BELD was pursuing a new power plant.
Two days after light board members unanimously agreed Sept. 16, 2015 to delay the retirement of Potter II for a year while BELD continued to evaluate its options for the development of a new generating station, Bottiggi said it would no longer be necessary for a special council meeting to take place since BELD had decided to withdraw for the moment its request to obtain bonding authorization.
Mayor Joseph Sullivan explained at the time why he felt the light board had acted wisely.
“I would not have initiated a general building authorization on behalf of the town without a better understanding of the potential ramifications,” he said.
If BELD’s proposal had been approved by the council and permitted by the state, the new plant would have been similar to the Thomas A. Watson Generating Station Units #1 and #2 that were completed in 2009.
“If it’s the right thing for BELD to build a new power plant and it’s the right thing for ratepayers, I want to be sure we do the right thing,” said Councilor-at-large Charles Ryan, the vice president of the council.
“This doesn’t have to be a quick process,” Bottiggi said. “I can spend a lot of time with (the council’s) ways and means committee.”