What are Peaker Plants?


What are peakers? 

A peaking power plant is an electric generating facility that only operates when electricity use is very high, such as on very hot and humid summer days when air conditioning demand is high, or on very cold winter days when both heating demand and electric demand is high. 

Why are they harmful?

These facilities are usually powered by very dirty fuels like coal, oil, “natural” gas or kerosene, and emit significant amounts of nitrogen oxides, a hazardous gas that can cause serious respiratory issues. Because they burn dirty fuels, these also emit greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.

Peakers are disproportionately located in environmental justice communities, and have contributed to disparities in health within those communities.

These plants also cost electricity ratepayers tremendous amounts of money in the form of “capacity payments”, even though they run extremely infrequently. Facility owners are paid millions of dollars each year to keep the plants on standby in case they are called upon by the grid to run on peak days. 

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.
» Learn more about Demand Response and Peak Shaving

In addition, solar plus storage can be used to produce and store clean electricity for use during these peak times. In Pittsfield, there are already solar fields built on brownfields that could have storage added to them, and right next to the Doreen and Woodland Road, there is acreage where solar plus storage could be built. 

All these alternatives replace dirty, air-polluting power plants with clean energy that would cost electric ratepayers less to operate.

» VIEW SLIDESHOW on Peaker Power Plants

Great resources:

» Dirty Energy, Big Money – Clean Energy Group

» Solving the Clean Energy and Climate Justice Puzzle

» Massachusetts Peaker Power Plants: Energy Storage Replacement Opportunities

» Phase Out Peakers: Replacing Polluting Urban Power Plants with Renewables and Battery Storage