Once again clean solar power is replacing coal. This time in Massachusetts where the Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E) and ENGIE North America have just completed a 3 megawatt community solar farm and 6 megawatt hour energy storage system at the former Mt. Tom Power Station site in Holyoke, a former coal and oil-fired facility.
“It’s been gratifying to see the Mt. Tom property transform over the last few years,” said Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. “This state-of-the-art battery storage system enhances our ability to increase Holyoke’s renewable energy portfolio, and we are hopeful that the Mt. Tom Energy Storage project will be the first of many storage projects that help us advance our environmental objectives.”
The new system is the largest utility-scale energy storage system as well as the largest community solar farm in the state at this point, the companies said. The energy storage system, which is expected to last for at least 20 years, combined with the community solar farm, dubbed GridSynergy, will help keep electric rates stable by reducing the rise in capacity charges, according to ENGIE. The system will provide demand response and reduce peak load demand.
“This project is the perfect illustration of energy transformation in action—affordable, clean energy replacing traditional fossil fuel power generation,” said ENGIE NA President and CEO Frank Demaille. “Solar energy, optimized by energy storage, is key to a low-carbon, low-cost energy future.”
It’s not the first time a renewable energy project is replacing power from a former coal plant site. In 2015, for instance, Google announced that it purchased the Widows Creek coal power plant in Jackson County in Alabama to convert it into a data center that would be 100 percent powered by renewable energy. Meanwhile utilities across the US and world are shuttering coal-fired power plants early as solar and wind power are becoming cheaper than coal power and even, in some cases, than natural gas power plants. Case in point, Colorado announced it would shutter coal plants more than 10 years early as wind and solar power came in at lower costs than other sources.
The Mt. Tom Power Station, which could produce more than 143 megawatts of electric generation, operated for nearly 60 years. It became uneconomic to operate as early as 2009 when it was operated only during high-energy demand periods as a peaker plant.
“HG&E is excited to expand its relationship with ENGIE, through the integration of this energy storage system (ESS) with the existing large-scale community solar farm at Mt. Tom,” said James Lavelle, HG&E’s Manager. “HG&E, and its ratepayers, will receive significant value, as this battery can respond instantaneously to relieve stress on the power grid, and help stabilize costs during period of peak demand or volatile pricing.”
The new project will help HG&E move towards renewables as the state requires its utilities to increase its uses of renewable energy. The state already aims to generate 45.5 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2035 and could increase its renewable portfolio standard even higher. ENGIE said energy play an important role in helping reduce demand-based costs in the New England market.Tweet