Berlin Lands Natural Gas Generator

Berlin Lands Natural Gas Generator
“We only run maybe 100 hours out of the year and it saves the town $550,000 to $600,000,” said Berlin Electric Utility Director Tim Lawrence. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN –   A new generator will ensure the town can continue its efforts to keep electric costs low.

On Friday, crews delivered the town’s new 2-megawatt, natural gas generator to replace the one that failed last July. Once it’s up and running, the town will have four engines to generate power when purchase costs are high.

“During peak high demand we’ll start these engines to cut the amount of load that we’re purchasing from the grid,” said Tim Lawrence, the town’s electric utility director.

According to Lawrence, the electric department typically has four functioning generators to use during peak times in the summer and winter. By using the generators, the town is able to reduce the amount of power it has to purchase off the grid.

“They all run at one time but they only run during high demand, either during the summer, like June July August, or during the winter, January and February,” Lawrence said. “We only run maybe 100 hours out of the year and it saves the town $550,000 to $600,000.”

Last July, one of those generators — a 1999 Mitsubishi — failed.

“One of the connecting rods broke and knocked a hole through the side of the engine so we had to replace it,” Lawrence said.

The town contracted with Alban CAT Power Systems (which is now known as Carter Machinery) for a new natural gas generator. Though the other engines at the power plant are diesel, the town wanted to move to natural gas for a cleaner burning engine. Lawrence said that as the new generator was being installed, a gas line was being run to the building and would be accessible from each engine bay.

“So in the future if another engine fails or we go to replace it we’ll change from diesel fuel to natural gas,” he said.

Jack McKenna, account executive for Carter Machinery, said it took the company about five months to build the new EPA certified generator for Berlin.

“It’s all custom built for this job,” he said. “It costs about half to operate because of one of those (diesel engines) because of the fuel, natural gas. It’s much cleaner burning.”

Though the new generator arrived Friday, Lawrence said it wouldn’t be ready to run until July.

“Once they get it set they’ve got a lot of other work to do,” Lawrence said.

He said the cost of the new generator, which will come in at about $1.5 million between purchase and installation, was covered by insurance.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.