NRG Energy biomass conversion project acquires permits

By Anna Austin | March 15, 2011

NRG Energy Inc.’s proposed biomass conversion of its Montville Generating Station in Uncasville, Conn., has all of the necessary permits and is ready to begin construction as soon as it has a power purchase agreement (PPA).

The project will result in the enhancement of the company’s Montville Generating Station unit 5 to burn biomass. The boiler, which was placed into service in the 1950s, originally burned coal, said Spokesman David Gaier. It was later converted to No. 6 oil with gas cofiring. With the new conversion, it will become a 40-megawatt biomass unit, but will retain the ability to produce its full electrical load of 82 megawatts using gas or ultra-low sulfur diesel, according to Gaier.

The project has received its air permit and has been reviewed by the Connecticut Siting Council. The only construction holdup is the need for an energy off-take contract, or PPA. “We could start construction roughly within 90 days of receiving a PPA,” Gaier said.

Besides the ability to utilize multiple fuels to increase electrical capacity, the project has other beneficial and unique aspects, Gaier said. One is that it will help meet Connecticut’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements more than other relatively small fuel cell, PV and wind turbine projects. “Supporting 32,000 households is big,” he said.

Connecticut has an RPS of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020.

The project will also be a new source of employment. The majority of the woody biomass required at the facility will be sourced from within the state and will create additional jobs in the forestry and trucking/logistics areas, Gaier said, possibly up to 200 jobs.

Gaier said the project is also innovative because it uses a regenerative selective catalytic reduction system, reducing nitrogen oxides, which is more effective on a boiler using biomass as feedstock.

Once a PPA is secured, construction will take about a year.