DEEP grants air permit for energy park

A rendering of the proposed Beacon Falls Energy Park. –CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — The Beacon Falls Energy Park, a 63.3-megawatt fuel cell project, has taken a step forward, following a setback in recent months.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has granted an air permit to build and run the project, slated for 10 acres of a 23.8-acre former stone and gravel quarry site owned by O&G Industries on Lopus Road. O&G, based in Torrington, is managing the project under the name CT Energy & Technology.

“We’re just buttoning this down, as with everything we do, and we’re aggressively moving forward with the project,” said William Corvo, project manager.

The air permit was required for the project because, while it does not create pollution, it will create more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year if constructed, he said. The project also received approval from the Connecticut Siting Council in January of 2016.

The DEEP approval comes two months after the project was turned down among 23 other bids for contract negotiations under the New England Clean Energy Request for Proposals. The plan by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to bring 460 megawatts of clean energy to the New England market instead awarded contracts to four other companies.

Despite the approvals from DEEP and the siting council, the energy park — like other energy proposals — still needs to obtain financing, which would have been acquired if it had been chosen by the three-state RFP, Corvo said.

“If you have no contractual agreement, none of these things fly,” he said.

Corvo said he is in talks with companies in the retail, technology and other industries that use a lot of electricity and are interested in power purchase agreements. He is also seeking other state RFPs for the project, which will cost about $300 million to construct, he said.

“We are not going to leave any stone unturned,” he said.

Corvo said he is optimistic more RFPs will come from the state because the state’s renewable energy portfolio requires utilities to provide 27 percent of electricity generation from renewables by 2020.

“If we don’t get there, the consumer has to pay a penalty through the utilities paying a penalty for not getting there,” he said.

If carried out, the Beacon Falls Energy Park project is expected to provide energy to about 60,000 state residents and businesses and create 115 jobs at O&G and another 300 at FuelCell Energy in Danbury. The project will use 20 fuel cell units manufactured by FuelCell Energy, which will maintain and operate the project.

FuelCell Energy in early December laid off 96 workers, including 75 at its Torrington plant in an effort to streamline its business and turn a profit. The company employs more than 500 workers in the state.