Friday, August 3, 2007
Billerica power plant looms
A 348-megawatt power plant proposed for the town of Billerica will be reviewed by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board this fall, according to the Lowell Sun ("Battle lines form over North Billerica power plant plan" July 16). The Montgomery Billerica plant, a joint venture between Montgomery Electric of Burlington, Connecticut, and DG Cleanpower of Thornton, New Hampshire, would be a "peaker" plant, supplying energy during extremes of cold and heat when extra power is needed. The plant would be sited on 14 acres off Billerica Avenue in North Billerica, and if the approval process goes smoothly, ground could be broken next spring with the goal of completion by the summer of 2009. However, a group of nearby property owners may oppose the plant, citing noise, air pollution, and safety concerns.
The primary fuel for the plant will be natural gas, with ultra-low sulfur diesel stepping in when natural gas is unavailable. Concern was raised in the Tewksbury Advocate (March 3) that 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel and a similar amount of aqueous ammonia will be stored on a site next to the Concord River, and that a spill could affect those living downstream. For the upstream town of Carlisle, a greater concern might be air pollution, although a Montgomery spokesman, Joseph Fitzpatrick, notes in the Lowell Sun that new plants are much cleaner than old.
Hearings are expected to commence October 2 at the Department of Public Utilities offices at South Station in Boston. Twenty-two property owners in Billerica, Tewksbury, and Pepperell who are members of Billerica Watchers have been given intervener status, which means they can testify and request documents. Billerica Watchers is a group of about 100 residents formed over concerns regarding the plant. However, many Billerica townspeople may support the plant, which, according to Fitzpatrick, will generate $180 million in taxes to the town.
An engineer and spokesperson for Billerica Watch, Don Gadbois, is quoted in the Sun as opposed to the plant because energy investment should be channeled to aging infrastructure and conservation. However Fitzpatrick responds that infrastructure improvements have been made and the state still needs 3,000 megawatts in new power sources. Gordon van Welie of Independent Systems Operator, the company that runs the New England power grid, has said that without new sources, rolling blackouts may become necessary by 2008 (Boston Globe, "Flurry of power plant proposals offers hope" September 25, 2006).
Hearings were held in Billerica in April for Montgomery representatives to answer questions, and no future local hearings are planned, according to the Billerica town web site.
© 2007 The