At the Forefront with Kevin Hennessy
In Connecticut, Dominion has long been at the forefront of producing electricity with non-carbon emitting resources. We are familiar with the Millstone Power Station in Waterford. The company is now expanding into renewable sources of energy in Somers and Bridgeport. The Connecticut Power & Energy Society asked Kevin to be interviewed for a special feature to describe these two new renewable energy projects and how they fit into Connecticut’s long-term energy strategy.
Somers Solar Center
The Somers Solar Center is a 5 megawatt solar facility that occupies approximately 50 acres in north-central Connecticut. Dominion purchased the project in October 2013 and the facility achieved commercial operation in December 2013. Heliosage was the original developer and the project consists of over 23,000 Kyocera solar panels. The project was one of two 5 megawatt solar facilities awarded a power purchase agreement stemming from state legislation.
Bridgeport Fuel Cell Project
Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell is a 15 megawatt fuel cell facility that is situated on a former Brownfield in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It is the largest fuel cell facility in North America. It was part of Project 150, a program sponsored by the state and supported by the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) to increase renewable and clean energy projects in Connecticut by 150 megawatts. FuelCell Energy was the developer of the project and Dominion acquired it in December 2012. The facility achieved commercial operation in December 2013. Dominion is the owner of the facility and has an agreement with FuelCell Energy to perform Operations & Maintenance.
How do these projects fit into the state’s comprehensive energy plan?
Connecticut has put renewable energy at the forefront of its comprehensive energy plan. The Somers and Bridgeport projects are both Class I renewable facilities and they are the first large-scale projects of their kind in Connecticut. Dominion’s projects are helping Connecticut achieve its plan.
Dominion has owned several large power plants in New England. How did the company decide to add these smaller, distributed resources, to its generation portfolio?
Dominion’s philosophy is that affordable and reliable electric supply depends on a proper balance of all types of generation: nuclear, clean coal, biomass, natural gas, hydro-power, wind, solar and fuel cells. Our portfolio represents that philosophy. While the Somers and Bridgeport projects are smaller than the typical power plant, they are both utility scale and provide power to the electric grid rather than on-site for a single consumer.
Who buys the power from these facilities?
Both facilities have long term contracts with Connecticut Light & Power. The Somers Solar Center has a 20 year contract and Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell has a 15 year contract.
Where is the technology developed for these resources?
The technology for the Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell project is developed and manufactured locally by FuelCell Energy. FuelCell Energy is headquartered in Danbury and has its manufacturing facility in Torrington. The technology for the Somers Solar Center comes from Kyocera which is a global company with headquarters in Japan. Its subsidiary Kyocera Solar is headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ and has a manufacturing facility in Tijuana, Mexico.
One project is located in an urban center while the other is in a rural setting. How were the sites selected for these resources and how do the different sites match the different operating characteristics of these two technologies?
The sites were selected by the developers before Dominion acquired the projects. However, the sites fit the technologies really well. Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell sits on a former Brownfield in downtown Bridgeport. The site is approximately 2 acres. It is an industrial facility and the location exemplifies well how fuel cells can supply base-load power to a congested and critical area. The Somers Solar Center sits on 50 acres of farmland. The owner is an entrepreneur and was able to maintain his farming operations, create a new revenue stream and maintain his open space. It would be very challenging to find 50 acres of open space in an urban setting for a solar facility. Additionally, both facilities are close to the electric grid for ease in connection and deliver of the electrons.
When will the two projects be completed?
Both projects were completed in December 2013 and are currently providing Class I Renewable power to Connecticut consumers.
What do you see on the horizon for Dominion and for the energy industry in Connecticut?
Dominion is a microcosm of where things are trending in New England. Our current New England portfolio consists of a nuclear power station, a combined cycle natural gas power station and the Somers Solar Center and Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell renewable projects. In 2012 and 2013 we sold our coal power plants in the region. In the future, I think New England’s power supply is going to come from nuclear, gas and renewables.
How did you get into the energy industry and why does it interest you?
I went to law school with a keen interest in energy and environmental legal and policy issues. I have gravitated to the policy-side of the field and was able to spend almost 5 years at the Connecticut Business & Industry Association as the energy point person. I interfaced with all facets of the energy world and am thrilled to be with Dominion now. What I find most interesting about the energy industry is that it is a complicated issue but simple at the same time. Complicated in that very few people know or care what goes into producing and using energy. Yet simple in the fact that without energy our society does not exist as it does today. I love the intricacies of the markets, the policy decisions and the business of providing an essential product. I get to work on multiple issues with very smart people both internally and externally. I could not imagine a better career or field.
What opportunities do you see for businesses and energy professionals in Connecticut to be engaged in further development of these types of resources?
Getting involved with CPES is a good start – there are dinners and conferences that promote networking and discussions on the current trends. Beyond that, Government has been a driver of where things have been heading. Government has set a vision and businesses, like Dominion, have been able to deliver it. I’d say get involved on the front end and see what policies/trends might be next.
What’s one word that describes you? Dedicated
How can people learn more about these projects?
Visit us at Dom.com; specifically, (https://www.dom.com/about/stations/renewable/solar/connecticut-solar-power-project.jsp) and (https://www.dom.com/about/stations/fossil/dominion-bridgeport-fuel-cell.jsp).