Proposed New Power Plant to Take Wetlands and Water

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — The developer of what will be Rhode Island’s largest power plant boasts that the project will deliver jobs and a ready supply of fuel from a beefed-up natural gas pipeline.

The Clear River Energy Center, however, is expected to run at full power nearly nonstop, generating noise and greenhouse-gas emissions from its mix of natural-gas and diesel-fuel power. The facility will standout in a rural, wooded area, and displace wildlife and historic and Native American sites.

Here are a few details from the 471-page application recently filed with the state by Invenergy Thermal Development LLC of Chicago:

The 900- to 1,000-megawatt power plant will be built on 67 acres of forested land located next to a natural-gas compressor station on Wallum Lake Road. Invenergy plans to buy the property from a 730-acre parcel owned by Houston-based Spectra Energy. Spectra owns the compressor station and the Algonquin pipeline that delivers natural gas from New Jersey to Massachusetts. The compressor station and the pipeline are being expanded to increase the region’s natural-gas capacity.

Invenergy claims the project will reduce regional pollution — but not necessarily in Rhode Island — by cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. This will be achieved, according to the Illinois company, as the power plant comes on-line while high-polluting plants are retired. The new plant is expected to lower regional energy costs, according to the developer.

Once built, the power plant is expected to operate with 24 employees and support between 230 and 290 indirect jobs. During construction, it will employ more than 300 laborers, construction workers, and craftsmen and indirectly support up to 950 jobs.

The plant will primarily burn natural gas supplied from the Algonquin pipeline. It also will run on diesel fuel brought in by trucks. It’s expected to burn 33 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 18 million gallons of diesel fuel annually.

The facility will contain two million-gallon diesel storage tanks. Each tank will be 30 feet tall.

An 800,000-gallon firewater storage tank, a 40,000-gallon ammonia storage tank and a 160,000-gallon wastewater storage tank will also be on the property.

The main building will be 80 feet tall, and two emission stacks will be 200 feet tall.

The project will disrupt or displace four historic sites and four Native American sites.

Town regulations allow a maximum of 43 decibels of noise at nearby homes. The highest noise level emitted from the project is expected to reach 47 decibels.

The project will require 6 miles of transmission lines, and a new access road will be built from the power plant to the main road.

Wastewater from the facility will be pumped through a new sewer connection with the Burrillville sewer system. The plant will use a dry-cooling system that reduces the amount of wastewater generated by a typical water-cooled system. Also, an on-site wastewater treatment system will clean polluted groundwater. The process will take 20 to 30 years.

The power plant will use an average of 224,000 gallons of municipal water daily.

Invenergy says the plant will be the most-efficient and lowest-emitting fossil fuel-fired electric-generating facility in New England.

The project is expected to release an estimated 3.6 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. It will also emit 285 tons of nitric oxide, 77 tons of volatile organic compounds and 50 tons of sulfur dioxide. The pollutants aren’t expected to exceed state and federal limits.

As aging power facilities go offline, the new power plant will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the New York and New England region by 1 percent. The facility will emit 2-3 percent less nitric oxide and 2-4 percent less sulfur dioxide.

The plant isn’t expected to alter Rhode Island’s goals for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the federal Clean Power Plan.

A total of 2.77 acres of wetlands will be filled or permanently altered by the project, and 17 bird, three amphibian, five reptile and 13 mammal species live in the project site.

A fast-starting ignition and flexible-fuel capability will allow new and existing renewable-energy systems to integrate more easily with the power grid.

A public hearing for the proposed power plant is scheduled for Jan. 12 at the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission in Warwick.