In addition to receiving power from many units within New England, BELD currently owns and operates four power plants and bids these plants into the ISO New England market system. They include a 96 megawatt (MW) combined-cycle power plant (Potter II), the two new Thomas Watson 58 MW quick-start simple-cycle turbines, and a 2 MW diesel unit.
The department is very proud of its customer service and electric system reliability. In 1998, BELD installed a fiber optic network throughout the town, connecting all of its substations and providing computer communications, phone service, and electric circuit relaying.
BELD gets its power from so many resources because the utility industry's motto is "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." Here's why:
• Reliability—Individual units can and do fail sometimes, but groups increase overall reliability
• Fuel diversity—Individual fuel prices swing widely over time, so it pays to use many different fuel types
• Economy—Base, intermediate, and peak loads are most economically served by different types of generators
Normally, generators are designed based on the amount of continuous run-time and the variability of the load they are expected to experience:
• Base (or constant) loads are best served with expensive but super-efficient generators that are very inexpensive to operate and maintain, yielding extremely cheap costs per kilowatt-hour. Examples of this are nuclear units.
• Intermediate loads are cheaper to service with less-expensive, less-efficient units because they do not run constantly. Examples of this are natural gas or oil units such as BELD's Potter Station.
• Peak loads occur infrequently, so low-cost generators that have high fuel costs are the most economical. Examples of this are diesel units or jet engines. BELD's diesel unit is considered a "peaker."