Power Plant of the Week - West Medway Jets

Nestled in leafy West Medway, close to where Summer St. (MA 126) and Main St. come together, lie the West Medway Jets. They are part of the Exelon portfolio, are located in the extreme western edge of the ISO-NE NEMA zone, and are perfect examples of peaking power plants that provide seldom used but critical services to the grid.

All three turbine units came online between 1970 and 1971 and have nameplate capacities of ~ 45 MW. On a combined basis, the West Medway Jets can produce 107 MW in summer and 167 MW in winter. They are fueled by distillate fuel oil and are capable of providing what is known as "Black Start" service. After the Northeast Blackout of 1965, the issue of Black Start became a hot topic among utilities. Most power plants are incapable of starting up without outside power. When the grid goes down due to a major blackout, bringing it back up is a delicate and uncertain process. Black Start plants are able to start without external power. As a result, Black Start plants are turned on first during recovery from a major blackout and they energize the bulk transmission system so that other plants that require external power for start-up are able to come back online. The West Medway Jets have Black Start capabilities and they get paid extra by ISO-NE just to be on standby to provide this capability if needed. You can learn more about ISO-NE's new Black Start compensation regime here. If you are struggling with insomnia, you can read Schedule 16 of ISO-NE's Open Access Transmission Tariff (OATT).

 Aerial photo from Google Maps

 Aerial photo from Google Maps

I decided to show a zoomed out picture of this plant because the number of transmission lines that come together at this plant is especially noteworthy. The aerial photo from Google Maps clearly shows the transmission Right of Ways as lighter green corridors cut through the forest and vegetation. You'll note that this plant is connected to five transmission lines and therefore its very well situated to be a Black Start resource.

Since this plant runs on distillate fuel, it doesn't run very often. Since 2007, each of the three turbines has run somewhere between 10 - 60 hours each year. They are true peakers and continue to be economic due to capacity payments and Black Start revenues.