Salem Harbor Power Station CEO Touts Design of New Facility

One smokestack would replace three, and that one less than half the height of the tallest existing stack.

The natural gas plant slated to replace the coal-fired facility at Salem Harbor Power Station will be smaller, cleaner — and much better looking.

One bonus for Marbleheaders would be a significantly decreased profile for the finished plant, with only one smokestack. And that one will be only half the height of the tallest existing stack.

The CEO of the company said it will transform the site into a mixed-use area that will not only power the region, but also provide berths for big cruise ships.

Peter Furniss of Footprint Power spoke to a capacity crowd of more than 200 at Tuesday morning's North Shore Chamber of Commerce Executive Breakfast Forum.

Here are the main outlines of the project: The old coal-burning facility will be all but razed, then replaced on a much smaller scale by a gas-fired power plant. Much of the 65-acre plot would be available for uses other than the plant, which would take up only 22 acres. Toward the Blaney Street side, docks capable of accepting large cruise ships are envisioned. Between the plant and the adjoining sewerage facility, industrial uses are expected.


High-end Architect Offers Design

Furniss provided new details Tuesday morning, including much about the proposed design of the gas works. The new plant would have one smokestack in place of the current facility's three. And that stack would be less than half the height (230 feet) of the tallest existing one (492 feet).

The CEO also touted a design by architect Bob Fox, whose firm designed the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park in New York City.

Furniss said Fox had studied the architecture of Salem in detail and proposes a plant that will echo features of the Federal style made famous by Samuel McIntire. Detailed plans were not immediately available, but the photos accompanying this story give an idea of the proposal.

Berms would hide much of the lower parts of the facility. Vertical elements would draw the eye up and to the sky while horizontal elements would echo the clapboard construction widely seen in Salem.

"The design is with an eye to being respectful to the community," Furniss said.


Big Hurdles to Clear

The elegant architectural renderings won't ever become reality, however, if Footprint Power doesn't get state certification that Massachusetts needs the energy such a plant would produce. Furniss told the crowd he expects a decision to be announced in the next day or so on that important hurdle — termed an "auction" by regulators.

"If we clear this auction with an award, it will indicate a plant is needed and is needed quickly," Furniss said at the Chamber event, which was held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers.

Winning that certification doesn't guarantee the project will ever be built either, though. Footprint Power must also convince the state that the project will provide "system-wide reductions in emissions and net economic benefit to Massachusetts," Furniss said, reading from a slide show he presented to the business group.


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