An Aug. 11 report in the Portland Press Herald said that NextEra Energy Resources has taken the aging, oil-fired Wyman facility, the largest power plant in Maine, off the market.
Wyman had been essentially written off as obsolete and deemed as too costly to run, the report said. But it said the 57-year-old generator suddenly appears to be valuable again due to other power plant retirements in the New England region. The report also noted that ISO New England, due to last winter’s bitter cold, relied heavily on oil-fired plants like Wyman to take up the slack when gas-fired plants faced gas supply issues.
The plant’s owner, Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources, declined to discuss details of its decision to cancel the sale, said the report. The company did provide a summary of a conference call to investors, in which it recounted conducting a competitive bid process last fall and winter and being dissatisfied with the results. Last winter’s developments in the regional energy market reinforced its view that Wyman was worth more than bidders were offering, the company said.
“While these assets are not called upon to run frequently, they play an important role in supporting the reliability of the electric system, and that has real economic value,” NextEra said.
The report also quoted a spokesman for the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co., which owns a small percent of Wyman’s output on behalf of 12 Massachusetts municipal utilities.
“Natural gas pipeline constraints, particularly in the winter months, are forcing New England to rely more on oil units like Wyman to ensure electric system reliability,” said David Tuohey. “That will continue to be the case until the region builds new gas pipeline capacity for electric generation, which will provide some relief to reliability issues and the economic stress of high and volatile electricity prices.”
A fact sheet on the NextEra website said that the plant is located in Yarmouth, Maine, on Cousins Island in Casco Bay. It is operated by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources. W. F. Wyman is a four-unit, oil-burning plant that began operation in 1978. The largest unit, W. F. Wyman Unit 4, is 608.5 MW in size. In 1999, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources acquired an ownership interest in Unit 4 and currently owns 513.2 MW.
Among the plants that have been retired or are due for retirement in New England are the Vermont Yankee nuclear facility, the Brayton Point coal plant in Massachusetts and the Salem Harbor oil- and coal-fired plant in Massachusetts.