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Natural gas prices won't hinder PVEC Project

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

WESTFIELD The potential increase in the cost of natural gas will not hinder the future of the proposed Pioneer Valley Energy Center Project (PVEC).

Instead, PVEC Project manager Matt Palmer told Reminder Publications the volatility of the energy market increases the need for the project. The higher efficiency of the plant coupled with lower levels of pollution will counteract rising fuel costs.

The PVEC is a $400 million electrical generating plant to be located in the city that would use natural gas. The high-efficiency operation would create only about one-third of the carbon emissions of coal-fired facilities.

PVEC management recently announced a deal with the city of Holyoke to use water from the Tighe-Carmody Reservoir to be used in cooling the generator. Palmer said that originally the plan was to use air to cool the machinery, but during the permitting process state officials asked the company to investigate water-cooling. He believes the water-cooling will improve the project.

Cooling by water takes up less space and helps control the noise of the plant, Palmer added.

Holyoke Mayor Michael Sullivan said, "This is a wonderful opportunity for Holyoke to put this abundant water resource to good use and earn some much-needed revenue for our city."

"Using this water supply from Holyoke increases the efficiency of the project with no adverse impact to the Westfield River or the Barnes Aquifer. We are pleased to have our sister community in Holyoke share in the benefits of this project," Westfield Mayor Michael Boulanger, said.

The use of the reservoir water will not affect the drinking water for either Holyoke or Westfield.

The plant is scheduled to be operational in June 2012 and is expected to produce 400 megawatts of power, enough electricity to power 430,000 homes. The electricity will first be used in Westfield and surrounding communities and then be distributed on the New England grid.

It will be built on a 35 acres-plot one mile from Barnes Air National Guard Base. The 60,000 square-foot plant is expected to provide between 15 and 20 permanent jobs.