The natural-gas fired turbine at Tiverton Power churns out electricity inside the near-100 degree (on a hot day last Thursday) main building at Tiverton Power.
TIVERTON — Tucked away down Progress Way, the lone resident of Tiverton’s sprawling Industrial Park was humming away at full throttle last Thursday.
With temperatures in the low 90s, power demand in the region was at near record levels and ISO (Independent System Operators) New England, which oversees New England’s bulk power suppliers, had sent out an order. Do not undertake any work that might pose the slightest risk to your facility. With demand so high, the loss of even one plant’s power output could disrupt things badly.
The 265-megawatt Tiverton Power station is a key piece of the region’s power picture and big changes planned there will soon help it do its work more reliably and productively, said Tricia Keegan, facility manager.
“This is already a very efficient plant,” she said, but is about to become much more so thanks to owner Emera Energy’s plans for the coming year.
Nova Scotia-based Emera has announced an $80 million agreement with General Electric for a complete upgrade to its 5-plus-year-old natural gas and steam-fire turbines. As part of the deal, GE will maintain that modernized equipment through 2028.
“The upgrades by GE will include best-in-class technology and will improve Tiverton Power’s efficiency and output. They also will increase its availability by extending the maintenance intervals,” said Dave Pickles, Emera Energy’s vice president of operations.
“GE supplied the plant’s original generation equipment (back in 1999) and we feel their technology, expertise and project-management experience will help us make Tiverton Power one of the most fuel-efficient and lowest emitting power plants in the U.S.”
Jeff Lucas, regional general manager of GE Power Services, said the work that will be done next year and take just over five weeks, is a big investment meant to improve Tiverton Power in four ways:
“Plant efficiency is going to improve, its environmental footprint will improve, (power) output will improve, and the reliability of this plant will improve.” That last, he said, is perhaps the most critical.
Although the 15-year-old turbines will not be replaced, they — especially the gas-fired turbine — will be rebuilt.
Either next spring or fall, equipment from GE’s plants in Greenville, SC, and Atlanta, Ga., and workers will descend on Tiverton.
The plant will be shut down and the turbines will be dismantled. Under the guidance of ISO New England, other power plants will take up the slack so that customers won’t even notice.
The timing is good, Ms. Keegan said, because Tiverton Power was due to shut down for a month anyway for a “planned outage” — under its old contract with GE, which installed the turbines in the first place, systemwide maintenance is done ever 18 months. With the new equipment, that regular maintenance shutdown can be stretched out to every four years.
“Using latest and greatest” technology, Mr. Lucas said the work will boost the plant’s power output by 22 megawatts to a new total of 287 MW (just one megawatt is enough to power roughly 1,000 Rhode Island homes for a year).
And it will do this with less fuel — annual savings are estimated at about $1 million — and with lower emissions.
“Emera Energy’s project demonstrates how power plant operators can make their facilities more profitable while reducing their fuel costs and emissions,” said Paul McElhinney, president and CEO of GE’s Power Generation Services business. And that will make the Tiverton plant more competitive.
Although none of the work will be visible from outside, the equipment changes are significant. Mr. Lucas said. More cooling air will be pumped back into the combustion system to assure that every possible bit of energy is harnessed, and the entire system will be linked to the “Internet of Things” which allows major pieces of equipment to be sensed, monitored and controlled remotely via internet networks.
Plant’s growing role
The pending closure of Somerset’s coal-fired Brayton Point Power Station, one of the region’s largest electricity producers, will leave a gap to be filled by other plants, among them Tiverton Power.
Beyond next year’s work, “There are no plans at the moment to expand (Tiverton Power) but Emera is always looks at its options,” Ms. Keegan said.
The plant now employs 18 full-time people — about to become 19 — a number that should remain steady unless further expansion takes place.
Tiverton Power began commercial operation in 2000. In 2013, Emera Energy acquired Tiverton Power along with the 520-MW Bridgeport Energy power plant in Connecticut and the 265-MW Rumford Power facility in Maine. The company’s goal is to enhance the three power plants to increase their competitiveness as other power plants in the region are retired and more intermittent renewable energy supplies are added to the grid.