SMMPA Acquires Property for Fairmont Energy Station

SMMPA Acquires Property for Fairmont Energy Station

May 20, 2011

On May 20, 2011, SMMPA closed on property needed to construct a generation facility in Fairmont, a SMMPA Member community.

The $30-million Fairmont Energy Station (FES), needed to replace retired generation, will provide up to 25 megawatts of high-efficiency, low-emissions energy.  It is SMMPA’s first new, conventional generation since completion of the Sherco 3 generating station in 1987.

Two to four gas-fired, reciprocating internal-combustion engines will increase diversity in the Agency’s portfolio and add operating flexibility – starting quickly when called upon and increasing reliability in Fairmont. Ultra-high-efficiency engines with the latest pollution-control equipment will reduce nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide by more than 90 percent. The project requires no additional transmission because 24.6 megawatts of inefficient steam generation in Fairmont was idled in 2009. 

Once erected along the east side of the existing Fairmont power plant, the station will be run by four SMMPA technicians, including two now employed by Fairmont Public Utilities. The Agency is aiming to operate the new power station no later than early 2014.

Important in the decision to site the energy station at Fairmont was existing infrastructure – natural gas, substation, switchgear and transmission. FES will strengthen Fairmont reliability as the existing 12 MW of diesel generation will be maintained after 25 MW of modern generation are added. The plant, as an intermediate load facility, is expected to operate approximately 20% of the time and will be crucial for supporting wind generation as it can start quickly when the wind subsides.

On November 2, 2010, Fairmont voters passed a referendum to sell its power plant to SMMPA. FES will be built on a portion of the existing power plant property.

Jim Zarling, Fairmont City Administrator, said, “The significance of having sufficient generation in town to cover our needs is important.  Also the sale will allow us to acquire a space for relocation of our warehouse and distribution service that will provide increased efficiency for the department because we will have the ability to keep all of our inventory products in one location. We look forward to working with our partner SMMPA to complete the FES project.”

"We're grateful to the people of Fairmont as we work together to provide reliable, affordable power to Fairmont and its 17 partner utilities in SMMPA," added Ray Hayward, SMMPA's Executive Director and CEO.