Residents speak on energy park proposal

An artist's rendering of the proposed Beacon Falls Energy Park. CT Energy & Technology wants to build the fuel cell power plant on a 23.8-acre piece of land owned by O&G Industries off of Lopus Road. –CONTRIBUTED
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Beacon Falls Energy Park. CT Energy & Technology wants to build the fuel cell power plant on a 23.8-acre piece of land owned by O&G Industries off of Lopus Road. –CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — A proposed fuel cell energy plant was at the center of a discussion Tuesday night as residents got their chance to question the proposal.

CT Energy & Technology, a Connecticut-based development company that develops energy projects that meet the state’s goals for renewable energy, has proposed building a 66.3-megawatt fuel cell energy park on a 23.8-acre site off Lopus Road. The park, dubbed Beacon Falls Energy Park, will be built on a former quarry owned by O&G Industries.

The plant will contain 21 fuel cell units and will be divided into five 3.7 megawatt units and 16 2.8 megawatt units, according to officials. If the plan comes to fruition, it will be the largest fuel cell park in the world.

“This is a world class renewable energy project using clean, Connecticut-based fuel cell technology,” said William Corvo of William Corvo Consultants, Inc. in Middletown and one of the founders of CT Energy& Technology, during the hearing that drew about 50 people at Woodland Regional High School.

Fuel cell technology strips the hydrocarbons out of natural gas and combines the hydrogen with oxygen, which creates energy and heat, company representatives explained.

Corvo said the project will have numerous benefits to the town, including economic growth and increased taxable revenue for the town.

“This is a large-scale taxable project. It will have a long-term, positive impact on your community,” Corvo said.

Resident Karl Johnson was skeptical about how the plant will benefit the town.

“At the end of the day you are not here to benefit Beacon Falls, you are here because it makes economic sense for you,” Johnson said. “For us, having you here is a great technological achievement, but when I put my house up for sale, having the world’s largest fuel cell plant in my town isn’t going to be a selling point.”

Johnson raised concerns that the company would receive tax abatements and be able to negotiate with the town the amount of taxes it is paying.

Corvo said the company plans to negotiate a tax-stabilization agreement with the town, which will ensure a flat rate of taxes moving forward.

“I need a tax-stabilization agreement so that I can be more competitive when I go to bid the project so I can get contracts,” Corvo said. “If I can’t win a contract and get this built, then you’re not going to get anything.”

Town Treasurer Michael Krenesky raised concerns about the proposed location of the energy park.

“This area is in the 100-year flood plain, I believe,” Krenesky said. “In 1955, that area was under 3 feet of water.”

Stephen Dietzko, vice president of the Cheshire-based consulting company Malone and MacBroom, said the 100-year flood limits don’t come up to the property where the energy park will sit. As for a storm similar to the flood of 1955, Dietzko said the state has put in better dam controls to help regulate the water flow of the Naugatuck River.

Beacon Hose Company No. 1 Fire Chief James Trzaski voiced concern that the company would need 300,000 gallons of water a day to run the energy park. He pointed out that the water main the company is looking to tap into currently services the Murtha Industrial Park.

Trzaski said he’s concerned that the energy park would cause a dip in the amount of water pressure used for fire protection in Murtha Industrial Park.

“The flow rates we are getting there now for fire flow are between 800 and 1,000 gallons-per-minute. That is right on the fringe of adequate fire protection for that area,” Trzaski said.

O&G Industries Power and Energy Division Director Richard Audette said the company has concerns about the water main, as well. Audette said he was working with Aquarion Water Company, which provides water to Beacon Falls, to ensure there will be adequate pressure.

“We are well aware of the issue there. We have some alternative designs if we see we are going to have any substantial issues,” Audette said.

Resident Gary Komarowsky questioned the longevity of the energy plant.

“How long do you think this puppy will last,” Komarowsky asked.

Audette said the plant is designed to last at least 25 years.

Dietzko added the pieces of the plant are modular, so different parts can be replaced as they stop working and can keep the plant running longer.

CT Energy & Technology has to gain approval of the project from the Connecticut Siting Council before it can be built. Audette said if the plans are approved by the council, he expects the energy park to take three years to complete.