Proposed Natural-Gas Power Plant Runs Out of Gas in Face of Strong Opposition

Genesis Power drops plan for Amwell Energy Center, which proved unpopular with locals and would have been built on a tract of open land in Hillsborough

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A proposal to build a new natural gas power plant in an undeveloped area of Hillsborough Township was withdrawn yesterday before any formal application had been filed.

Genesis Power, LLC informed the mayor’s office early yesterday morning that it would not proceed with the project, which in a short period of time had spurred a great deal of opposition in the community.

The $1 billion power plant could have served about 700,000 homes during the peak summer period. Dubbed the Amwell Energy Center, the expected 640-megawatt facility would have been the fifth new natural-gas plant proposed or built in New Jersey in recent years.

The Christie administration’s energy policies endorse a greater reliance on natural gas to supply the state’s electric needs, as well as for heating homes and businesses. With new gas supplies being tapped in neighboring states, the cost of the fuel has lowered heating bills for consumers and moderated increases in power bills.

The natural-gas focus, however, is opposed by many clean-energy advocates who fear it will impede efforts to shift to renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind, as well as hurt efforts to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions. Many communities oppose the policy because it has spurred a rapid of expansion of natural-gas pipelines, many crossing preserved open space and farmland.

In Hillsborough, there was a growing outcry against the proposed power plant, which would have been located in a relatively rural area of the township. Mayor Frank DelCore said that had to be a factor in the company’s decision to drop the project.

“Clearly, they were aware of some of the feedback being received,’’ DelCore said. “There were a lot of concerns raised. It’s pretty good news for a Monday.’’

Local officials questioned the proposed site chosen by the company for the power plant. DelCore noted other recent power-plant projects have been located in more industrial areas rather than on a parcel surrounded by farmland.

A statement from the company’s president, Bob Place, did not explain its decision to withdraw the project. “Genesis Power, LLC, will not continue pursing plans to build Amwell Energy Center,’’ according to the statement.

“The project plans, in their earliest stages, called for the construction of a combined-cycle electric generating facility that would have used about 10 percent to 15 percent of a 423-acre parcel of land that currently houses three interstate gas pipelines and multiple electric transmission lines.’’

The existing energy infrastructure would have lowered the overall cost of the project by not needing to connect to lines and pipelines farther away.

Environmentalists welcomed the withdrawal of the project. “This is a big victory for clean air, clean energy, and the environment,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This plant was the wrong plant in the wrong place that would have had tremendous environmental impacts.’’