A much needed modernization to the small and aging power plant within the confines of the Wrentham Developmental Center underway. The plant, which provides heat and hot water throughout the campus, was constructed with steam boilers in the 1940s and 1950s and the system is showing its age by needing regular expensive repairs. "The staff at Wrentham Developmental Center keeps the plant in good repair," wrote Jennifer Kritz, Communications Director for the Massachusetts Executive office of Health and Human Services. "But expensive repairs to the boilers have become more frequent."
The goal of the project is to modernize the plant with the installation of three new energy-efficient boilers that would be able to run on either natural gas or household fuel oil. Currently, the boilers run on a thick #6 fuel that has the appearance and consistency of tar. The fuel needs to be pre-heated before use. The boiler controls also date back to the 1950s and will be replaced along with new pumps. "The end result will be a power plant that will run more efficiently on cleaner fuels and will result in cost savings for the Commonwealth and taxpayers," says Kritz. ""Since the new boilers will be running more efficiently on cleaner fuels, we expect that our smokestack emissions will drop."
The issue of power is a hot topic these days with the extended power outages associated with Tropical Strom Irene in August and the October snowstorm. WDC had to run on the generators during the outages and, while the project's plans were in place before the recent incident, the facility will have new equipment to help in a similar emergency. The project calls for a new gas-fired emergency generator that will replace an old turbine. "The new generator will have automatic switching gears allowing it to fire up immediately when the power is lost," she says. The old turbine required a 30 minute warm-up period before it could be run.
The new plant modernization has the interest of Town officials. Again, due to the recent power outages, emergency power is an issue being evaluated. "We're very interested in what they're doing," says William Ketchum, Wrentham Town Administrator. He cited the recent approval at Town Meeting of a generator for the Senior Center. Also, the elementary school is looking into a generator. "If we can learn something from what they're planning perhaps that will change what we do," he says.
The project is set for completion by next winter.