Builders of Plainfield biomass plant hustle to beat deadline
James Mosher/ NorwichBulletin.com
Plainfield First Selectman Paul Sweet, left, and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, right, speak with SAIC Constructors LLC Senior Project Manager Bill Kelsey during a tour of the Plainfield Renewable Energy biomass plant site on Monday.
Builders are working around the clock to complete a Plainfield power plant by December so it can qualify for a $70 million federal tax credit.
Completion of the Plainfield Renewable Energy biomass project is expected to be completed in November, managers estimate. The renewable energy credit was made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“We’re running within a week or two of schedule on our targets,” said Bill Kelsey, senior project manager for SAIC Constructors LLC, which is leading the building effort at the 26.5-acre site off Norwich Road.
Between 360 and 380 construction workers are at the site during daytime hours, with 60 to 80 working at night, Kelsey said. About 100 jobs are expected to be created for plant operators and others once construction is finished.
Kelsey led U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Plainfield First Selectman Paul Sweet on a tour of the facility on Monday morning.
“They’ve made tremendous progress in the past eight months,” Courtney said. “It’s a race against time to get that renewable energy tax credit.”
The amount of materials being put into the plant is astounding, Sweet said. That includes 4 feet of cement in the generator room to help it withstand earthquakes.
“You wouldn’t believe the amount of steel in this place,” Sweet said.
The plant will be an asset for Plainfield, he said.
“It’s progress, man,” he said, smiling.
The Plainfield project is one of two biomass efforts in Eastern Connecticut. New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc. is looking to convert one of the units at its Montville plant to biomass.
Plainville-based Manafort Brothers Inc., the company demolishing buildings at the former Norwich Hospital site in Preston, is among the contractors working at the Plainfield site.
The largest structure on the parcel is a “barn” that will be able to store 4,400 tons of wood biomass material, including construction and demolition debris, recycled wood pellets, tree trimmings and land-clearing materials. Among the machines that will be operating among the barn’s sorting functions is a detector that spits out metal, separating it from wood material, Kelsey said.
Plans call for the plant to burn 960 tons of biomass per day to create 43 megawatts of electricity, enough to illuminate 37,000 homes, Kelsey said. Managers plan to keep 21 days worth of material on site at all times, he said.
The bustle of activity of the hundreds working as well as the sizes of construction equipment and the facility’s major components, which includes three cooling towers, has managers wishing they had more room.