Berlin’s gas generation plant
BEACH LAKE, PA — A standing room crowd at the November 15 Berlin Township Board of Supervisors meeting heard firsthand the details of a planned gas-fired electricity generating plant to be located southeast of Skycrest and Adams Pond Roads on property currently owned by Robert Schmidt.
The plant will be built and operated by Stourbridge Energy LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of IMG Midstream. In business for five years, IMG opened its Roundtop plant in October 2015 and its Beaver Dam plant in June 2016.
Matt Tripoli, senior manager, and Greg Samilo, manager, both of IMG Midstream, conducted an information session, answering questions afterward. To the question “why here?” Tripoli said plants are ideally situated at the intersection of existing natural gas and electrical infrastructure; in this case, a tap from the Tennessee Gas Pipeline will fuel the generating plant, and the electricity generated by it will be distributed via existing electric lines.
Professional engineer Tripoli said the permitting process is expected to last approximately 18 months, with construction of the $20 million facility to take an additional year. Once open, the facility will be operated remotely, with 24/7 security monitoring. Daily operations and safety inspections will be conducted by IMG technicians. In the event of malfunction or security threat, automatic shutdown will be initiated remotely by an IMG technician from the local operations center.
IMG expects to begin working with Berlin’s planning commission in spring 2017, to meet the requirements of the township’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO). In the absence of zoning, Berlin’s SALDO affords some protections otherwise provided by zoning ordinances. Supervisor Cathy Hunt said Berlin’s SALDO was developed with assistance and recommendations from Ed Coar, former director of the Wayne County Planning Department, and may be even more stringent than that agency’s SALDO.
Asked first about projected lifespan of the generating plant (20 years) and then about plans for its eventual decommissioning, Tripoli said 20 years in the emerging energy field is a long time, and that rapidly changing technologies could render this project obsolete long before then.
“Will taxpayers be saddled with the cost of decommissioning?” asked one resident. Tripoli said he thought the SALDO would probably address decommissioning responsibilities, procedures and costs, and noted that sale of scrap metal and other valuable materials contained in the facility could offset costs associated with the dismantling, transport and safe disposal of facility construction materials and byproducts.
Before anyone asked what kind of environmental impacts would apply, Tripoli said noise and air pollution were the two most common. He compared the plant’s engine to a car motor, saying both work on the same principles, producing noise and exhaust fumes. Both also require engine oil, antifreeze and urea, which will be stored and used onsite.
“Noise of around 60 decibels 700 feet from the facility can be mitigated by housing and sound-buffering barriers,” said Tripoli, adding that the plant will operate about 60% of the year, more during peak electricity demand months of January, February, July and August.
Following the presentation, residents began a tentative conversation about the possible benefits of zoning, but Bailie Rutherford of Berlin’s Planning Commission said the initial cost of adopting a comprehensive zoning ordinance in neighboring Texas Township had been $45,000-$55,000. Resident Jim Barth asked, “Could we at least investigate the possibility?”