For decades, environmental activists and hopeful residents have opined for the day that clean wind power could replace the gas-powered Mystic Station powerplant on Everett’s waterfront, just a few hundred yards away from Charlestown’s heavily residential areas.
Now, that day could be closer than ever as the Anbaric company has put in a proposal to ISO New England – the region’s power grid manager – that calls for going ahead with the planned closure of the Mystic Station, and replacing it with a major power line tied to off-shore wind power that is now being built in federal waters of the Massachusetts coast.
The Mystic Reliability Wind Link is one of several projects proposed to ISO New England as part of an RFP process last December, but a project that could transform the region’s power source to clean and renewable – and according to Anbaric – in a responsible way that could leave Charlestown’s air cleaner and its waterfront accessible.
“Massachusetts residents recognize the vital importance and potential of renewable energy,” said Theodore Paradise, Senior Vice President for Transmission Strategy at Anbaric. “The retirement of Mystic is once-in-a-generation opportunity to tap into our growing offshore wind resource, reduce air pollution and avoid often-delayed overland transmission. Our Mystic Reliability Wind Link proposal will strengthen reliability and help set the stage for the next generation of clean energy in the region.”
Paradise added the Mystic Station is a great pollutant in Everett and Charlestown. He said that since 2009 it has emitted more than 27 million tons of climate-changing CO2, more than 3,000 tons of NOx and more than 4,000 tons of SO2, both of which he said are linked to adverse respiratory and cardiovascular health impacts.
Anbaric said they are one of several companies that have responded to that RFP from last December, and they hope to become one of four semi-finalists announced in July or August. The RFP is all about retiring the Mystic Station, which was announced last year suddenly by its parent company, Exelon. There are three units that were announced by Exelon to be retired. ISO New England said it would allow Unit #7 to be retired, but required Exelon to keep Unit 8 and 9 open so there would be enough power produced for the region. That, however, meant a $300 million subsidy that had to be paid to Exelon to keep the units open until 2024. That was spread out across New England, so while it was costly, it wasn’t crippling to consumers. That said, after 2024, that subsidy will be spread out only between eastern Massachusetts consumers and will create quite a cost pinch.
It was with that background that ISO New England put out the RFP to explore what could responsibly replace the Mystic Station if it was to completely be retired and, likely, redeveloped. Of all the proposals, Anbaric’s is one that proposes 1,200 MW – and eventually 2,400 MW – of power to be shipped on a buried wind-power “highway” from Plymouth to Everett.
Using power that would be generated by off-shore windfarms now in the beginning stages of development 25 miles off the coast of southeastern Massachusetts, those wind farms would be tied into the old Pilgrim Nuclear plant in Plymouth. Anbaric’s project would run an electrical wire link for 45 miles up the coast six feet under the ocean floor. Once they get off the coast of Revere, they would tunnel under Revere Beach and onto Rt. 16. The link would then be taken through Revere, Chelsea and Everett in one lane of Rt. 16. It would end in a switch yard on a five-acre piece of property owned by the Berberian Family on the banks of the Malden River in the Everett.
The final leg would be from that switch yard down to the Eversource substation in Charlestown across Alford Street from the Encore Boston Harbor casino. More than that, it would result in a clearing of the waterfront from the industrial use of the powerplant on numerous acres – a power plant that thousands of Charlestown residents have looked at and breathed in for generations.
“The thing that changed since Cape Wind was where off-shore wind farms are built,” Paradise said. “The real problem with Cape Wind was you could see it. The technology has changed now. These farms are now built far out – 24 or 25 miles out – beyond the horizon line. No one can see it and they’re out in the federal waters. When I’m around…the Mystic River area, you are right there on a very nice waterfront, but the people have very little access to the waterfront because it is taken up by the power plant and industrial uses. This would open that waterfront up to development and likely restore access too.”
Paradis said they could be ready to begin on June 1, 2024.
He said that is one reason they really hope to get the community supporting their project, and to have ISO New England choose them or another green project to advance to the next stage of evaluation is because it is plausible, environmentally-friendly and different.
“We’re hopeful they don’t say they will just open up the streets of Boston again and run more wires under them,” he said. “We hope ISO thinks about renewable uses and what can be built quicker. We expect to hear in July or August which direction they want to go. We’re hoping our project is one of them. I hope they really don’t consider the same old thing because it’s what they’re used to. It can be hard to get people away from what has been perceived to work again and again.”