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$645 million clean energy plant planned in Somerset

Source: 
The Enterprise

SOMERSET — A planned facility that would convert and store electricity generated by offshore wind turbines was unveiled at Brayton Point on Monday.

"I think this will be the single largest energy source in southern New England, so the contributions to New England as a whole are very considerable," said Edward Krapels, CEO of Anbaric, which is developing the new Somerset-based facility.

Construction on the Anbaric Renewable Energy Center is expected to begin in 2021 and will result in a 1,200-megawatt, high-voltage direct current converter. The facility will serve as the "plug-in" between offshore wind turbines and the power grid from which local homes and buildings receive electricity. Anbaric is also planning to build 400 megawatts worth of battery storage on the site, which would be utilized on days when winds are low and turbine output is less productive.

Between the 1,200 watts being converted onsite and the energy being stored, Krapels said the facility's output would be "comparable" to the peak of 1,600 megawatts that had been generated by the coal-fired Brayton Point Power Station that operated on the property from 1957 until 2017. Demolition of the former plant is ongoing, with the two 500-foot cooling towers that had served the plant in its last years being demolished last month. The two largest remaining structures on the property are scheduled to be demolished later this year.

In total, Anbaric estimates the project will reflect a roughly $645 million investment.

Krapels said that about five to 10 people will be employed full-time at the site of the Anbaric Renewable Energy Center, though he pointed out that its construction will likely have a ripple effect through the energy industry that could create thousands of more jobs with other employers throughout the state.

"With our 1,200-megawatt gateway, if you will, a lot of other companies can come in and create a lot of other jobs," he said, adding that the project's two-year construction will likely create as many as 400 temporary jobs.

The significance of replacing a coal-powered plant with a "zero-emission" alternative energy source was not lost on the elected officials present Monday.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy described the transition as "extraordinary" and quipped that he was glad to see the old plant's cooling towers no longer looming over the skyline.

"For someone who flies almost this exact path down to D.C. and back every week, I always knew I was getting closer to home when I saw those cooling towers. I will be one of those folks who will not miss them," Kennedy said.

Kennedy also praised the efforts of state Rep. Patricia Haddad in working to find a new use for the land at Brayton Point.

"We know this is going to be a gigantic shift, not only for clean energy and jobs, but for an industry that still has the ability to mature and grow and become something else," said Haddad.

Beyond the benefits of job creation and supporting renewable energy, officials also said Anbaric's arrival will have a positive impact on Somerset's annual tax revenues.

Between the closing of the Brayton Point Power Station and the 2010 closing of Somerset's Montaup Power Plant, Somerset selectman David Berube said the town lost roughly 40 percent of its tax base, which he estimated represented $20 million annually. Berube said he was optimistic that projects such as the Anbaric Renewable Energy Center would help restore those lost revenues.

"It had been a huge financial burden on the town. I would like to publicly thank all town departments who realized this financial situation the town has been put in and their cooperation in moving us forward," he said.

The planned renewable energy center will take up a small portion of the total land available on Brayton Point's 300 acres. Krapel said the facility will cover the site of the former power plant, but that will only cover 20 acres. The rest, he said, could possibly be filled by tenants of other wind energy-related industries, such as manufacturing. The rendering Anbaric released of its finished facility shows space where turbine components could be stored before being shipped to their final location.

"All of the wind manufacturers are negotiating at various points. ... Right now that industry needs places to live in the United States and this is one of them," Krapel said. "Whether they come here or not is going to be a negotiation they're going to have to have with the town and the state."

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