FirstLight Power has submitted its Amended Final License Application (AFLA) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to extend the operating licenses for 50 years for its Cabot and Turners Falls hydroelectric generating stations on the Connecticut River and its Northfield Mountain energy storage facility.
These facilities will be important contributors to Massachusetts’ efforts to achieve its goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, FirstLight said.
If approved by FERC, the new licenses will sustain more than 70 well-paying and union-represented jobs in Western Massachusetts and hundreds of millions of dollars in local property tax payments to Erving, Gill, Montague, and Northfield for another half-century, the company said. The new license also ensures continued generation of clean, renewable, locally produced hydropower to more than 1 million New England homes and businesses.
Based on findings from more than 40 detailed scientific studies and years of environmental reviews, FirstLight is committing to $130 million of new investments in protection, mitigation, and enhancement (PM&E) measures, foregoing about $100 million in energy revenue over the next 50 years by restricting hours of hydropower generation to protect wildlife and habitat, and upgrading recreational facilities in the region. These measures include:
- $5.6 million in investments to improve recreational facilities on the Connecticut River, including four new access points and boat launches in Montague and Northfield
- New upstream and downstream fish passage facilities and protective netting at the Northfield Mountain water intake to minimize impacts on fish and marine life from operations
- Changes in hydropower operations protocols to improve fish migration and spawning and to improve general aquatic habitat for a multitude of plant and animal species
- Ongoing management plans for protecting bald eagles, long-eared bats, and shortnose sturgeon, maintaining historical properties, and mitigating the spread of invasive species.
“Northfield Mountain and our Cabot and Turners Falls facilities are delivering a significant portion of the zero-emissions clean power available to New England’s electric grid today, and they are poised to play an even more important role in the decades ahead as Massachusetts scales up renewable energy to achieve its ambitious goal of net-zero emissions by 2050,” said FirstLight Chief Executive Officer Alicia Barton. “We are proud to be able to strengthen FirstLight’s longstanding environmental stewardship in the region and support environmental and species protection, preservation of clean energy jobs, and investment in the local economy, all while combating the existential threat of climate change.’’
The 1,168-MW Northfield Mountain pumped-storage facility, known as “New England’s biggest and greenest battery,” was completed in 1972 and can store enough power to serve 1 million homes for more than seven hours every day. This makes Northfield Mountain both a critical resource for ensuring reliable power and an ideal backstop for large-scale wind and solar power to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions. To bolster its value to the reliability of the New England electric grid and to the region’s carbon reduction goals, FirstLight is asking FERC to make permanent the allowed use of existing storage capability at Northfield Mountain that FERC has granted during seasonal peak times in the past.
Cabot-Turners Falls is Massachusetts’ largest conventional hydropower facility and consists of the 62-MW Cabot Station, put into service in 1916, and 6-MW Turners Falls station just upstream, commissioned in 1905.
Extensive research for the 700-page AFLA confirmed that FirstLight’s operations affect riverbanks in only two locations, one of which has already been remediated. In the second location, research showed, naturally high river flows and boat wakes account for the vast majority of riverbank impacts, with only 8% of impact attributable to hydroelectric operations by FirstLight. The study confirmed that the steps FirstLight has completed to date to mitigate shoreline erosion issues have satisfactorily addressed all impacts related to hydropower operations.
FirstLight is a clean power producer and energy storage company in New England with a portfolio that includes nearly 1,400 MW of pumped-hydro storage, battery storage, hydroelectric generation, and solar generation.