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GE and Footprint Power Bring a New Perspective to one of America’s Oldest Towns


The demands of today’s power generation industry are many: lower cost of electricity, dispatch volatility, along with increased efficiency, reliability, and asset availability. In response, GE created the 7F.05 gas turbine to be efficient and agile when you need it, yet still simple to maintain.

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A New Approach

Salem, Massachusetts isn’t just any town. First settled by Europeans in 1626, It’s home to a long and storied history featuring puritans, witches, and famous writers, but its newest resident—a power plant—had no trouble getting acquainted with the locals.

Footprint Power isn’t just any company, either. It’s a corporation dedicated to helping owners of older coal- and oil-fired power plants–and the communities that host them–transition these facilities and sites to other productive purposes. By working with GE, Footprint was able to transform the Salem Harbor power plant to give it a new life.

“We needed to be small.  We needed to be nimble.  We needed to be able to work with a community that the plant was located in, but also with a broader stakeholder group,” remarked Peter Furniss, Footprint Power’s chief executive officer. Getting the community’s feedback and approval was paramount to the Footprint team.  

“We really approached things differently--some would say backwards,” explains Scott Silverstein, Footprint’s president and COO. “We started by talking to the community trying to figure out what they wanted, what they needed, and then how we could bring things together to match up to what their needs and wants and expectations were.”

Combining Forces

The result was a plant like no other. Footprint, along with GE and Iberdrola, is implementing a GE 7F.05 heavy-duty gas turbine on the site—but is also looking take advantage of off-shore wind resources, since Salem’s harbor is ideally positioned to receive winds from off of Cape Ann—some of the most powerful in the country.

The 7F.05 combines class-leading efficiency with a faster start that makes a big difference, explains Scott Silverstein, Footprint’s president and COO. “Where our old coal plant would take 16 hours to come up, which means we’d be producing emissions for 16 hours before we put a megawatt of electricity onto the grid, the new plant can come up in ten minutes.” 

Footprint committed to training workers and providing funding to ensure that less than a year after the shutdown of the old plant, every worker that was looking for a job was able to get one. The new plant will be operation on May 31, 2017, and the Footprint team maintains that it was a group effort.

“It was not a straight path. It was full of dips and hills and curves and the key, I think, was that we all maintained our faith in one another. So, kudos to the GE team and the Iberdrola team for seeing the possibilities, not being scared off by the fact that we didn’t have a huge balance sheet to throw around, and being willing to kind of work with us. I hope, I think we had a lot of fun doing it too because it really was something that became bigger than all of us,” says Furniss. 

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