Back in September, we wrote about an Environmental Notification Form and Waiver Request submitted by the company NRG – the owner of the Canal Generating Plant on the Cape Cod Canal – to build a “Community Solar Project” and third electric generating unit (“Canal Unit 3”). Read the September 18th blog →

We submitted comments on the environmental form and waiver request, questioning how the pending closure of Pilgrim could impact NRG’s plans, as well as how sea level rise and other climate-related impacts will be considered in the Environmental Impact Report. Read our comments letter →

On Dec. 18th, 2015 Wicked Local Sandwich published the article below reporting that the Sandwich town manager supports NRG’s two projects – citing financial benefits to the town and a means to help meet the state’s energy demands.

The Canal makeover is moving forward with support. We will be sure to review the future Environmental Impact Report to ensure the health of Cape Cod Bay is considered throughout the process.

Sandwich town manager backs zoning review waiver for canal-plant additions

By Paul Gately, December 18, 2015

Owners of the canal-side power plant seek a comprehensive zoning waiver for their proposed revamp of the massive facility and Sandwich Town Manager Bud Dunham supports the request, saying it will accommodate regional energy demands and support the town’s financial health.

NRG Canal 3 Development LLC plans a natural-gas fired addition to its plant and a small solar farm off Tupper Road.

Dunham said he supports a zoning waiver after reviewing the request with the town’s code staffers; he added the overall idea is to avoid “uncertainties and delays” in the energy project still unfolding.

Dunham says comprehensive review is due the proposal by the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board and Cape Cod Commission.

“The type of fast-generating facility being proposed by NRG is desperately needed in our region and will hopefully lead to additional modernization and development of the NRG Canal site,” Dunham noted in a letter to the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board and in his brief to selectmen Dec. 17.

“Such additional modernization and development are not only needed for the energy demands of our region, but they are also critical to the future financial health of Sandwich,” Dunham noted.

The town manager says that, given the size and scope of the project, “it would be virtually impossible for NRG to construct Canal 3 and receive zoning variances of the magnitude needed.”

Selectmen Chairman Frank Pannorfi and board member Patrick Ellis said they are both inclined to support Dunham’s sentiment about the energy-generation project, but they also said they should wait to decide about sending their own letter to the EFSB until colleague Ralph Vitacco can vote on that matter.

Dunham, though he is enthusiastic about the NRG plans in Sandwich, also advised selectmen there are related issues to tackle. They include forging a property tax valuation agreement with NRG and a host community pact that might involve an annual payment to town coffers.

Dunham said such issues would be discussed with selectmen Jan. 7 in an executive session.

NRG – which is headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, with dual headquarters in Houston – seeks its local zoning waiver via provision of Massachusetts General Law.

Pannorfi supports the canal-side project makeover. “I think there are more positives to this than negatives,” he said. “This (waiver request) doesn’t allow people to come in and ask us carte blanche for exclusions from zoning.

“This will be the only thing generating power in southeastern Massachusetts once the Pilgrim (nuclear power) plant closes down,” Pannorfi said. “I’d rather be working with them (NRG) than taking an adversarial positon. This is just too big a deal.”

Ellis agreed the board should wait for Vitacco’s return before drafting an NRG support letter to the siting board. “As a community a long time ago, we put all our eggs in that basket, and I think we should protect that basket.”

The power plant, which now runs only on so-called “peak days” of high-energy demand, commands the canal-scape from the Sagamore Bridge to the famous waterway’s east end. Plant ownership has changed in recent years. The facility was built in the early 1970s and operated on Venezuelan crude No. 6 oil off-loaded at the plant’s adjacent tank farm.

Cape Cod Bay Watch, meanwhile, asked its members in October what will happen with the NRG plant given Entergy’s announcement that the Pilgrim nuke in neighboring Manomet will not operate beyond June 2019 – and closure that could likely occur before that date.

Bay Watch submitted comments to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs regarding a recent Environmental Notification Form and Waiver Request from NRG.

The group is dedicated to protecting environmental aspects of Cape Cod Bay and in October vowed to “monitor NRG’s Canal Generating Plant to ensure the bay is protected now and in the future.”

A deep public look seems forecast for NRG plans from siting and environmental viewpoints, but the utility appears to be part of a change across the country in which traditional fossil-fuel plants are being converted to natural-gas feeds and opting to incorporate solar energy provisions as well.