NRG Energy still seeking PPA for proposed US$100M, 40-MW biomass retrofit at Montville, Connecticut, coal-fired power station; project might be selected for state program to raise renewable energy, company officials say

LOS ANGELES , August 16, 2011 () – NRG Energy Inc. is confident it can secure a long-term contract for the electricity from its proposed US$100-million biomass retrofit project at the Montville, Connecticut, power station, said a company official, reported Power Engineering on Aug. 15.

The Princeton, New Jersey-based utility, which owns the Montville Station Power Plant, plans to convert one of the plant’s four generating units to burn wood chips, allowing it to produce 40 megawatts (MW) of base-load power using the biomass process. The 82-MW unit currently runs on natural gas.

The project, which would allow the unit to operate either powered by natural gas or biomass, has approvals from the Connecticut Siting Council and the state Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection, Power Engineering reported.

However, the plans are on hold until NRG Energy secures a long-term contract with a buyer for the power output, said Jonathan Baylor, NRG’s development manager for the New York region.

Over the next six years, Connecticut aims to spend $8 million to provide 15-year contracts with incentives for zero-emissions renewable power projects. It’s unclear if the NRG Energy biomass project would meet those zero-emission standards, reported Power Engineering.

Another option for the project is to be selected for the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund’s Project 150, which will increase the state’s renewable energy-generating capacity, said Baylor.

NRG Energy’s biomass proposal could replace one of the projects already selected for the program, as none of these have been developed, he said.

The state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority must review the existing Project 150 selections. This is slated to occur next month and could prompt a new round of contracts for renewable energy generators, said David Gaier, an NRG Energy spokesperson, Power Engineering reported.

NRG Energy also has talked to other parties about buying the power, and this could result in a “bilateral contract directly with another counterparty,” said Gaier, adding that any deals would have to be approved by the state.

The proposed Montville power station retrofit would require that the unit burn 400,000 tons per year of wood chips, according to company estimates, said Baylor, noting that the feedstock would come from forest residues.

Connecticut’s forests produce an estimated 1.2 million tons/year of unusable wood, Baylor said, reported Power Engineering.

The primary source of this article is Power Engineering, Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Aug. 15, 2011.

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