When Yankee powers down, it will have to be “decommissioned”. However, that process only applies to those structures and appurtenances that were actually involved in nuclear production or otherwise affected. There are numerous other buildings that can remain. They should be put to useful service.
The spent fuel, of course, must be dealt with in an urgent manner. In reality, nothing useful can be developed there while the fuel remains.
One of the biggest assets at the site is the 345,000 volt transmission line network extending North, South and East. Although not owned by Yankee, it is located there and has been significantly upgraded recently. Any new development needs to take this into consideration.
This suggests that the highest and best use of the site might be in the continued generation of electricity.
Any source of electrical power that does not rely upon renewables.would be a non-starter. That leaves hydro, geothermal, solar and biomass, singly or in combination I didn’t include wind.(am I forgetting anything?).
Hydro is probably not an option. A mile downstream is an existing dam owned by Trans Canada (Douglas’s Folly) which has been producing power for over a century. It just completed a major upgrade. It’s probably extracting as much power from the Connecticut as is possible without massive redevelopment, which would be environmentally prohibited. Besides, Trans Canada is not Yankee. Scratch hydro.
I must admit, I know very little about geothermal electricity. Typically, geothermal electric plants have been built where high temperature geothermal resources are available near the surface. I doubt such conditions exist in Vernon.
A more recent development called a binary cycle power plant can accept fluid temperatures as low as 60°C (140ºF), but the Connecticut never gets near that hot. I think we can scratch geothermal as well.
Solar could and should be part of the mix. However, Solar takes up a lot of land.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) determines that a large fixed-tilt solar PV plant requires 2.8 acres per Gigawatt-hour per year of generation. (Direct land impacts on a generation-weighted basis.)
On a capacity-weighted basis, total land requirements average out to about 9 acres per Megawatt.
(The proposed PV site off Technology drive is about 5 acres per Megawatt).
The total installed capacity of Yankee is 620 Megawatts. According to their website, they generate 4,703 Gigawatt-hours per year.
To equal this by PV alone would require 2.8 x 4703, or 13,000 acres (20 square miles), equal to the total area of the Town of Vernon.
PV ain’t gonna work by itself, folks. But in combination with biomass, it might.
For one thing, to efficiently utilize the existing transmission network, it may not be necessary to equal Yankee’s output.
I leave that calculation for others.
Biomass means a lot of different things. Burning wood to boil water and using the steam to generate power isn’t much of an improvement over burning atoms to do the same thing. For one thing, it’s not very efficient. For another, there are several such plants in various stages of planning in nearby towns, putting our local forests in jeopardy. For a third, there’s the smoke.
However, there are alternatives.
As a renewable energy source, biomass can either be used directly via combustion to produce heat as above, or indirectly after converting it to various forms of biofuel. Conversion of biomass to biofuel can be achieved by different methods which are broadly classified into: thermal, chemical, and biochemical methods.
Gasification is a process that converts organic materials into carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This is achieved by reacting the material at high temperatures (>700 °C), without combustion, with a controlled amount of oxygen and/or steam. The resulting gas mixture is called syngas or producer gas and is itself a fuel. In fact, it was the principal cooking fuel in urban areas throughout America until after WWII when gas utilities found it cheaper to pipe in natural gas.
The power derived from gasification and combustion of the resultant gas is considered to be a source of renewable energy if the gasified compounds are obtained from biomass.
The advantage of gasification is that using the syngas is potentially more efficient than direct combustion of the original fuel because it can be combusted at higher temperatures or even in fuel cells. Syngas may be burned directly in large diesel engines such as are used to propel ships, which may be used to drive generators.
Gasification can also begin with material which would otherwise have been disposed of such as biodegradable waste. In addition, the high-temperature process refines out corrosive ash elements such as chloride and potassium, allowing clean gas production from otherwise problematic fuels.
Forest migration is the movement of large seed plant dominated communities in geographical space over time. Though an individual tree is permanently fixed in a location, tree populations may migrate over the landscape through generations.
There is evidence that forest migration is happening now in Vermont. Southern trees are seen more frequently in Vermont than has been normal in the past. Maples, in particular, appear to be migrating north, a cause of great concern to the maple industry.
A consequence of this, if true, would be the slow die-off of existing trees, resulting in an extended period of dead or dying trees. If left standing, this would greatly increase the risks of forest fires, thus they must be removed.
Culling these forests could be a significant source of biomass for years to come.
I’m running out of steam here (pun intended). What I’m trying to say is that some combination of solar and biomass is capable of generating enough power to utilize the existing grid connections in a productive way, and possibly create many times the jobs we’re losing at Yankee.