The state's Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan announced Thursday that the Energy Facilities Siting Board has approved the petition of Footprint Power to construct a new 692-megawatt gas-fired power plant at the site of the existing Salem Harbor Power Station.
The new plant is expected to be built and operational by June 2016.
The Footprint project will include the demolition and removal of the existing power plant, which will be retired by June 2014, and the remediation of the site for the new plant and other uses.
“The Footprint facility is expected to be one of the most efficient and lowest-emitting large gas-fired power plants in New England,” Secretary Sullivan, who chairs the EFSB, said in a prepared statement. “Limiting greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring electricity reliability for the region are critical to the Commonwealth’s long-term environmental and economic objectives.”
The Footprint facility will be the first large gas-fired plant built in Massachusetts in over a decade and will provide New England with a source of power that can go online within ten minutes.
"This is a major and positive step toward the completion of this extremely important project," Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll said in a release. "Not only will this new natural gas facility significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions for the area, but it is also the cornerstone of redeveloping our deep water port and Salem Harbor into a 21st century economic engine. With EFSB's approval, Footprint can move forward with their plans to remediate one of Salem's largest brownfield sites into a clean, modern facility. Salem is ready for Footprint and, with this decision, it is clear that the Commonwealth is, as well."
Footprint will feature technologies that reduce environmental impacts, including an efficient gas turbine, advanced emission controls, and air cooling rather than water cooling, which uses millions of gallons of water per day from Salem Harbor. The plan also includes a design to reduce visual and noise impacts in the surrounding community.
Studies reviewed by the EFSB indicate that Footprint’s efficient, low-emission technology will reduce the New England grid’s reliance on higher-emitting fossil plants, thereby reducing regional carbon dioxide emissions by about 450,000 tons per year. This reduction is equivalent to more than 103,000 cars taken off the road. The low-emission technology will also cut other harmful air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury.
“Today’s announcement is another important step forward in the transformation of Salem’s power plant site,” Sen. Joan Lovely said in a release. “This is a careful process, and I plan on continuing to work with both city and plant officials as this critical project moves ahead.”