Plans for fuel cell plant unveiled

Proposed Beacon Falls Energy Park
May 1, 2015

A former sand mine may become the largest renewable energy fuel cell project in the world.

CT Energy & Technology, LLC wants to build a fuel cell power plant, dubbed the Beacon Falls Energy Park, on a 23.8-acre piece of land owned by O&G Industries off of Lopus Road.

“This is a major world class project. And that’s not an exaggeration. … What we’re talking about is the largest renewable energy project of its type in the world,” William Corvo of William Corvo Consultants, Inc. in Middletown and one of the founders of CT Energy& Technology said.

CT Energy & Technology is a Connecticut-based development company that develops energy projects which meet Connecticut’s goals for renewable energy, combined heat and power and distributed generation. The CT Energy & Technology is made up of several Connecticut companies, including O&G Industries.

Representatives from CT Energy & Technology presented the plan for the power plant during a special Board of Selectmen meeting Monday night.

O&G Industries Power and Energy Division Director Richard Audette said the site used to be used by O&G as a sand mine. It is currently a brownfield, he said, and is used by ATV and dirt bike riders.

Audette said the plant will contain 21 fuel cell units and be able to generate 63.3 megawatts of energy. He said the property dips down about 50 feet from Gruber Road. So, the plant would not be visible to people driving by the property, he said.

Audette explained fuel cell technology strips the hydrocarbons out of the natural gas and combines the hydrogen with oxygen, which creates energy and heat.

“It’s a real simplistic system, even though it has taken 50 years and a lot of engineering technology to make it work,” Audette said.

Audette said the noxious emissions from the proposed plant would be 0.4 parts per million. The proposed Towantic Power Plant in Oxford would emit 2.5 parts per million, he said.

If the project moves ahead as planned, Audette said, it would take three years to complete. Construction would be done in three phases and is tentatively scheduled for the beginning of 2016.

Resident Rich Minnick questioned what made the plant a renewable energy source since it relies on natural gas.

Audette said Connecticut is one of 11 states that classify fuel cells as a renewable energy.

“Engineers and scientists have always debated, is it really renewable. And the debate is it’s renewable because ultimately, in the chemical reaction process, you are stripping out all the carbon and sulfur in the natural gas down to nothing left but hydrogen and oxygen. Which is nothing more than water,” Audette said.

Since the chemicals are removed and only water is left over, Audette said, it is classified as a renewable energy project.

Corvo said one of the selling points of the project is that it is Connecticut-based. All of the companies involved in CT Energy& Technology are based in the state, the fuel cell technology was developed in Danbury, and all the energy generated is distributed to Connecticut, he said.

“When we make electricity, Connecticut gets electricity. Period. You don’t have to wait for something to come down from Maine or somewhere else,” Corvo said.

Corvo said the company did its research for locations for the project before deciding on Beacon Falls.

“We looked at half a dozen communities and, to be honest, Beacon Falls is extremely competitive because your taxing rate is comparatively low compared to the other communities. When you couple that with the magnitude of this project, which is millions and millions of dollars, the impact of this project on the community from that point of view will be absolutely great for the community and good for us,” Corvo said.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik said officials have put a lot of thought into this project and has been discussing it since November.

“Getting it to the point where we are ready to bring it to the community has been a lot of work and there is still more work to do,” Bielik said.

This is the second renewable energy project that has come before the board in as many months.

In March, the board heard a proposal from the Troy, N.Y.-based solar company Jordan Energy to place solar panels on town-owned property along Lopus Road.

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