Lease deal a step toward possible fuel cell park

NAUGATUCK — The borough has agreed to lease a parcel of land on Cherry Street Extension with the hopes that the site will become the home of a merchant fuel cell park.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses last week approved an agreement with Lanxess, a German chemical company and the successor of Chemtura Corp., to lease a 1.25 acre lot across from an electric substation for $1 a year.

The borough is also in negotiations with Lanxess for the entire 86-acre site, which includes the 1.25 acre lot, for Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess’ Port of Naugatuck project.

The borough is working with Advanced Energy Efficiencies, LLC, a Woodbridge-based consulting firm, on the merchant fuel cell park project.

Gary Hale, managing partner with Advanced Energy Efficiencies, said the project would be between nine and 10 megawatts if completed, and the company would pay the borough rent on the property.

In order for the project to move forward, the borough needs to own or have exclusive rights to the property — which is where the lease comes in — and be granted access to the power grid by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

In 2017, the DEEP put out a request for proposals for green energy projects, including fuel cell projects. Projects accepted by the DEEP will be granted access the power grid.

DEEP Communications Director Chris Collibee said the department isn’t accepting any more proposals at the moment, but might be in the near future.

Hale said he knows the deadline has passed for proposals, but he and the borough are hoping DEEP will award a bid to them if another project can’t move forward.

“We know we are, at best, on a waiting list,” Hale said. “It’s a long shot but we are hoping they will consider it favorably.”

If the borough receives the go-ahead from the state, the project will take 12 to 18 months to complete, Hale said.

Hess said a fuel cell project needs two things to be successful, easy access to a substation and natural gas. Cherry Street Extension has a natural gas line running down it, he said.

“It just so happens that we have gas and we have an electric substation right across the street. So we have maybe the best site in Connecticut for the merchant fuel cell project,” Hess said.

This is the second fuel cell project the borough and Advanced Energy Efficiencies have worked on together. The company assisted the borough with the fuel cells that are used to help run the wastewater treatment plant.