745 MW coal-fired power plant could close by 2014

New England's electricity grid manager agreed to allow Salem Harbor Power Station to close two coal-fired units in 2014. It also proposed a strategy that could see the entire 738 MW plant permanently shut down by that date.

The decision by ISO New England follows plant owner Dominion Resources Inc.'s request in February to close the 60-year-old plant by June 2014. Dominion has said it won't invest in upgrades at the four-unit, coal- and oil-fired plants.

The Associated Press said ISO approved closing two of Salem's coal-fired units. But two larger units -- one fueled by oil, the other by coal -- were still needed to guarantee reliable electricity.

the regional transmission operator also recommended upgrading six  115 kV transmission lines in the area. Doing so would allow the entire 738 MW power plant to close. The upgrade would cost around $51 million, according to an ISO New England document from December 2010. The plan would have to be approved by state regulators.

Dominion now has until mid-November to notify the ISO if it plans to shut the entire plant  by June 2014. If it does, the ISO would have to develop plans to work around Salem's exit from the grid, whether or not its recommendation to replace the transmission lines had been adopted or completed.

If Dominion keeps the Salem plant running, it would have to shut it down once the area's transmission upgrades were complete and the plant was no longer needed.

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