Footprint buys Salem Harbor from Dominion, plans gas unit

Footprint Power LLC said June 29 that it has signed an agreement to buy the Salem Harbor coal-and-oil-fueled power plant in Massachusetts from a Dominion Resources (NYSE: D) subsidiary and plans to develop a natural gas power plant at the site.

The plant is rated at about 583 MW, according to a Dominion website.

The existing generating units at Salem Harbor had already been earmarked for shutdown by the end of 2014. Upon a successful acquisition, Footprint will be required to operate the existing power plant until May 2014, in accordance with the station’s obligation to ISO New England.

Footprint said in a news release that it hopes to develop a new combined-cycle natural gas plant at the site in 2016. The news release did not specify the likely nameplate capacity of the proposed gas plant.

A New Jersey-based company, Footprint Power was formed in 2009 by longtime power-industry executives to identify opportunities for the re-powering or re-purposing of older fossil-fuel fired generation facilities.

In addition to reducing emissions throughout the ISO New England system, the quick-start capability of the planned new plant should enable more intermittent energy, such as renewables, to be built in the future, Footprint said.

The natural gas power plant should only take about one-third of the 63-acre Salem site. The remainder of the site will eventually be used for commercial and industrial redevelopment consistent with the findings of the City of Salem’s January 2012 site assessment study.

The Salem Harbor transaction, expected to close promptly upon receipt of regulatory approvals, will be the company’s first acquisition. Footprint’s principals, who have many decades of combined experience in the Massachusetts energy industry, have been working toward a successful purchase of the Salem Harbor station since last year, the company said.

“We are thrilled that many months of negotiations and hard work with Dominion have allowed us to reach this milestone today,” said CEO Peter Furniss. “Salem has long been our company’s first choice for an initial project.”

NAES Corp., a national leader in power plant operations, will employ both the union and non-union employees of the plant and will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the facility.

Earlier this year, the union workforce at the plant voted to ratify an amended collective bargaining agreement that will ensure the continued employment of the existing plant’s staff through its scheduled shut down in June 2014. Dominion announced early last year that it would remove from service two units at the Salem Harbor Power Station in December 2011, and shut down the remaining units at the station on June 1, 2014. Dominion removed from service Units 1 and 2 as planned. The scheduled shut down of Units 3 and 4 remains unchanged.

According to the Footprint website CEO Furniss is a former NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) official who helped negotiate NRG’s purchase of Bluewater Wind. Footprint President and COO Scott Silverstein served in senior posts for K Road Power and EBG Holdings.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.