SALEM — Footprint Power executives said yesterday the natural gas-fired plant they plan to build on Salem Harbor will be “dramatically cleaner” than the coal-burning one that has operated there since the 1950’s.
The public got a first glimpse at Footprint’s plans at a public meeting yesterday morning — the first of what many public sessions on the project.
New Jersey-based Footprint Power bought the 64-acre Salem Harbor Station site earlier this month from Dominion Energy. Footprint will shut down the coal-burning plant on May 31, 2014.
After the closure, Footprint plans to demolish the coal-burning plant, remove the coal pile, clean up the site and build a new, 630-megawatt natural gas-fired plant.
Footprint CEO Peter Furniss said the proposed plant will be “state of the art,” use dramatically less water and generate much less carbon emissions than the existing plant. The plant will use only natural gas — not diesel fuel, which several people at yesterday’s meeting asked about — to generate electricity.
The proposed plant will “meet the strictest possible standards for emissions,” he said. “... Human health is the prime driver in this (project).”
The buildings will be smaller, with a single 230-foot smokestack. The existing plant’s tallest stack is 491 feet.
The project will need numerous permits from varying state boards and agencies before it can proceed.
Yesterday’s meeting was moderated by Deirdre Buckley, a representative from the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and focused on an environmental report Footprint has submitted to the state about the project. Citizens have until Aug. 28 to submit written comments on the report.
The next public meeting on the project is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 19.
Furniss and Scott Silverstein, Footprint’s chief operating officer, spoke at the meeting and answered questions for more than an hour. Afterward, they led a site visit of the harbor plant.