Peaker Plants in the Berkshires
There are three peaking power plants in Berkshire County, MA: Woodland Road in Lee, and Doreen and Pittsfield Generating in Pittsfield. These plants are decades old and run on highly polluting fossil fuels, including “natural” gas, fuel oil and kerosene. They endanger health in the local neighborhoods and cost ratepayers tens of millions per year despite only running a fraction of the time.
We believe that clean air is a right. No one should have to live in a community where their health is at risk simply from the air that they breathe. Therefore, we are demanding that the three peaking power plants located in Berkshire County, MA convert to only renewable and clean alternatives.
*Pittsfield Generating on Merrill Road has just filed with Mass DEP (Dept. of Environmental Protection) to renew its Air Quality Permit. We’re in touch with DEP, requesting a public hearing. We should hear back from them early next week with details on when and where. Check here for details.
In the meantime, sign the petition and spread the word!
Collectively, Berkshire County’s peaker plants emitted over 36,000 lbs of nitrogen oxides, a hazardous gas that poses several significant health risks, including asthma, cardiovascular disease and increased mortality rates from COVID. They also contribute significantly to the region’s greenhouse gas emissions. Pittsfield Generating, for example, accounted for over 15% of the city of Pittsfield’s total stationary emissions, despite only running for a few days out of the year.
Pittsfield Generating and Doreen are also very close to Environmental Justice neighborhoods, as can be seen in the map below.
Alternatives to Peakers
There are cleaner, cheaper alternatives to these plants that don’t pollute our air or cost nearly as much. The first alternative is happening already: demand response, or peak shaving. During times of peak demand, customers, especially those that use a lot of electricity, can save a substantial amount of money by reducing their electricity demand for a few hours. This is because avoiding energy use during peak demand lowers their supply rate across the board.
» Learn more about Demand Response and Peak Shaving from BEAT’s webinar
GRID STORAGE (Clean Peak Standard)
Solar plus storage can be used to produce and store clean electricity for use by the grid (in front of the meter) during these peak times. Right next to the Doreen and Woodland Road plants, there is acreage where solar plus storage could be built.
And the Clean Peak Standard, the regulatory program for grid-scale storage in Massachusetts, allow for storage only, storage paired with off-site renewables, or storage paired with third party off-site renewables as options for feeding energy to the grid at peak. This allows sites with limited acreage like Pittsfield Generating to store energy while renewables in other locations are generating. This could be paired with solar on large scale rooftops, over brownfields, parking areas, transit corridors like alongside or over road or railways, etc.
» Learn more about the Clean Peak Standard from Clean Energy Group’s webinar
There is also Mass Save’s “Connected Solutions” program that allows electric customers (behind the meter) to use battery storage in multiple ways:
– Demand Response – switching to stored energy instead of drawing from the grid at peak
– “Virtual Power Plant” – supplying stored energy to the grid at peak demand
– “Islanding” – supplying power to the building or other infrastructure to which it’s tied during outages (a bonus benefit of local resiliency for municipalities)
– Energy supply during off-generation hours, supplying power to the customer when their own solar or wind isn’t operational
All of these functions can be engaged whenever the customer desires and incentives for each kind of use can be combined for increased revenue and decreased pay-back period.
All these alternatives replace dirty, air-polluting power plants with clean energy that would cost electric ratepayers less to operate. When solar is appropriately placed on rooftops, over parking lots, brownfields and other already disturbed areas instead of clear cut forest land, it brings clean generation closer to the location of demand as well.
» Learn more about Connected Solutions from Clean Energy Group webinar
Putting Peakers in the Past Coalition
We are building an opposition coalition, including area organizations, neighborhood groups and businesses who are opposed to the continued use of fossil fuel for peak demand.
Our Coalition is reaching out to plant owners to urge them to convert to clean energy storage options as soon as possible, rather than continue polluting until they become stranded assets as fossil fuel use is phased out by state law.
Pittsfield Generating has an air permit that expires in October of 2021. Our goal is to create opposition to the renewal of that permit before the owners of Pittsfield Generating applies for it.
We believe that once people in the community understand the impacts of these power plants, we can take action together to shut them down! That may take the form of pressing for alternatives like switching them to grid storage and solar or pressuring to shut them down altogether if demand response proves that they’re not needed.
Want to join in? Let’s build this movement together
Sign on to the Coalition Statement!
– Sign the petition — tinyurl.com/PeakerPetition
– Join our list-serv — groups.google.com/g/berkshirepeakers
– Sign up for Shave the Peak app — greenenergyconsumers.org/shavethepeak
(Short link for this page: tinyurl.com/PutPeakersInThePast )