Hearings set for proposed energy park

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

BEACON FALLS — The Connecticut Siting Council will come to town next week to take a look at the proposed site for a fuel cell energy park and get the public’s opinion on the project.

Beacon Falls Energy Park, LLC, has proposed building a 63-megawatt fuel cell energy park on a former sand and gravel mine owned by O&G Industries, parent of the limited liability company proposing the project. The energy park, which will be the largest fuel cell project in the world if built, will be built on 8 acres of land within the 23.8-acre site off Lopus Road.

Beacon Falls Energy Park has a petition for a declaratory ruling pending before the siting council. The siting council is scheduled to do a walkthrough of the site for the proposed project Nov. 5. The siting council is scheduled to hold two public hearings on Nov. 5 — one at 3 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m. Both hearings will be held at the firehouse, 35 North Main St.

William Corvo, of William Corvo Consultants, Inc. in Middletown and one of the founders of Beacon Falls Energy Park, said the project will consist of 21 fuel cell units, five 3.7 megawatt units and 16 2.8 megawatt units.

“Fuel cells work like a battery works, basically,” Corvo said. “What happens is they use a fuel, which goes across the battery chemical components. In this case it would be natural gas. It takes the hydrogen out of the natural gas and makes a fuel out of it and processes it chemically between the cathode and the anode.”

Corvo said a fuel cell has positive and negative ends, like a battery.

“In this case, a fuel cell is no different. It has an anode and a cathode and the chemical pack that’s on the inside converts the natural gas into electricity without combustion,” Corvo said. “You get heat, water, and electricity out of the back end of the fuel cell. It’s an extremely clean process for making electricity.”

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Communications Director Dennis Schain confirmed the emissions from the proposed project fall within the boundaries of what is considered safe for humans and the environment.

Corvo said fuel cells strip the natural gas apart to generate electricity, rather than using combustion like the proposed power plant in Oxford.

The state classifies fuel cells as a Class 1 renewable energy source.

Schain said fuel cells are cleaner and have lower emissions than other sources of energy and, despite the fact they use natural gas, they are considered renewable.

“You can debate the science, but bottom line is there was a legislative decision made to include fuel cells as a renewable resource,” Schain said.

Corvo said the project meets noise requirements laid out by the state and town. He added the plan calls for putting up a sound fence around the park, as well.

The energy park will be 26 feet at its highest point, according to Corvo. It will be built in the former gravel and sand mine pit and will not be visible from the road or neighboring properties, he said.

Beacon Hose Company No. 1 Fire Chief Jim Trzaski raised concerns over the summer that the energy park’s need for 300,000 gallons of water a day might impact water pressure in other areas of town, which could hinder efforts to fight fires.

Corvo said the energy park will be engineered so it will not have any negative impact on water pressure.

“It’s our responsibility as developers to do no harm. One of the first things we did is we had a dialogue with the people that supply the water to analyze that situation and provide whatever remedies are necessary so it doesn’t have a negative impact on the community. Firefighting is essential to the safety of the community,” Corvo said.

Corvo said the company has been listening to people’s concerns and will continue to do so.

“We heard what everybody had to say at the original meeting with the Board of Selectmen in March and we listened to the 83 people that took time out of their schedules to show up at the public hearing at the high school, and we will continue to listen to everybody that has got something to say,” Corvo said.