Fuel cells to power plant

NAUGATUCK — The borough’s wastewater treatment plant will soon get its energy from a green source.

The Board of Mayors and Burgesses last week unanimously approved an easement to allow Eversource Energy to run a gas line to the treatment plant and an agreement with Doosan Fuel Cell America, Inc. to install three fuel cells to help power the plant.

Under the agreement with Doosan, the energy produced by the fuel cells will be sold to Veolia Water North America, the private company that runs the borough-owned plant at 500 Cherry St. Ext. The energy will be sold at a rate of 1.5 cents less than what can be found on the open market at that time.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the savings will be approximately $175,000 a year.

“So, it is a very significant savings,” he said.

Veolia could also realize a savings as the company will be able to switch from oil to natural gas.

The borough will not see any of those savings, Hess said in a subsequent interview.

The fuel cells and the gas line are the result of a settlement agreement reached last year between the borough and Veolia that put to rest several legal issues.

Under the agreement with Veolia, the borough realized cost savings in exchange for making certain improvements for the plant, including a cheaper fuel source.

“Part of the reason we were able to settle our differences at the wastewater treatment plant is we agreed to provide these energy savings to Veolia. So it was a good deal for the borough because it helped us resolve our differences with Veolia, and it enables them to save on energy costs,” Hess said.

While the borough won’t realize any savings from the projects, Hess said the fuel cells and the gas line will be installed at no cost to the borough.

The gas line, which will be used to power the fuel cells, will be installed down Cherry Street Extension. Residents on the street don’t have the option now to tie into a gas line, but they will after it’s installed.

“[Eversource Energy is] doing it at their own expense because there is a lot of gas to be delivered,” Hess said.

The three fuel cells will be placed near a utility box at the corner of Cherry Street Extension and Spencer Street.

According to Hess, Doosan will install the fuel cells at no cost to the borough because the company will receive tax rebates from the state.

“They are taking advantage of some favorable tax laws where they get a significant benefit for doing the project. So they essentially provide the fuel cells at no cost to the borough and then they get tax benefits,” Hess said.

Hess expects construction of the fuel cells and the gas line to begin no later than the spring, and the fuel cells will be running by the summer.

Adam Burkitt from Advanced Energy Efficiency and Environmental Quality, LLC, who was representing Doosan, said the fuel cells are relatively small, and each one will only take up about a parking space.

According to Burkitt, the fuel cells will produce up to 12,088 megawatts of energy in the first year.

“To produce the amount of energy we are producing down there would take 60 acres with solar [panels],” Burkitt said. “Think of all the trees and farmland you would have to take away if you are trying to do this project with solar.”

Hess added the project is another step the borough is taking toward more green energy.

“As a town we are making a commitment to being a green and sustainable community, we are dramatically reducing our carbon footprint, and at the same time we are saving millions of dollars in energy costs over the next generation,” Hess said.