Here's one big Massachusetts power plant that keeps changing hands

Managing Editor, Print-Boston Business Journal
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lgforeriver-600xx449-299-28-0Courtesy photo/Exelon Corp.
Exelon Corp. has agreed to sell the Fore River power plant in Weymouth for $530 million to Calpine Corp.

The days are long gone when someone went to work at a Boston Edison plant and knew that they would eventually retire from the same company. The deregulation of the electricity market changed all that, by forcing the incumbent utilities to sell off their plants and usher in a new era of competition.

That was back in the 1990s. Since then, we've seen a long line of natural gas turbines, windmills and solar arrays go up, in a world where just about anyone with the right financing could build a power plant.

It's been good for the environment — and not so good for worker stability at some of the bigger power plants.

There's not one place that's a better exemplar of this volatility than the Fore River Generation Station, the predominantly natural gas-fired plant that greets drivers as they cross the river from Quincy into Weymouth.

When Exelon Corp. bought Constellation Energy more than two years ago, the company picked up the Fore River plant and its big sister in Everett, the Mystic plant, as part of the acquisition. It was a strange twist of fate, because Exelon had previously acquired the two power plants from Sithe Energies in a deal announced back in 2002. The Fore River plant wasn't even done by that point — but that's a whole other story. By that time it was resting comfortably back in Exelon's hands, the Fore River plant had changed hands at least six times.

Make that seven times. Calpine Corp. said on Aug. 25 that it would buy the 809-megawatt Fore River plant from Exelon for $530 million. The deal, when it closes later this year, will give Houston-based Calpine its only power plant in southern New England. The 11-year-old Fore River plant, like many natural gas-fired plants, also has the capacity to burn oil.

Mystic and Fore River had generally been run together, but this deal will sever the relationship between the two. Mystic will continue to be a part of Exelon’s portfolio, as well as a few smaller plants in the state such as ones in Framingham and South Boston.

Will this be the last time Fore River gets traded? Given its history, you can’t blame the 36 workers there for wondering how much longer they have to wait before another big change comes their way. 

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