Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand take up a massive footprint at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Foxwoods is one of the largest electric customers in Connecticut but they recently cut their draw from the grid in half.
A cogeneration power plant on site at Foxwoods now produces about 60 percent of Mashantucket’s power needs. Complete with a computerized control room and an extensive system of steam, water, and natural gas pipelines, the rear of the casino looks more like a factory than a casino.
"Cogeneration is the production of two energies from one fuel source," said executive director of community development and property management Bob Birmingham. A crew of engineers now oversees the process that begins with two natural gas pipelines.
The natural gas is pressurized and burns which in turn moves a turbine that generates electricity. What makes cogeneration so clean and efficient is that the excess heat energy and steam is used to heat and cool the buildings depending upon the season.
"Sometimes you’ll see a traditional fossil fuel plant at 32.5 percent efficiency," Birmingham said, "We are now rated at 82.5 percent efficiency."
Before the cogeneration plant was built, Foxwoods was drawing nearly 30 megawatts of electricity from the grid. With nearly 60 percent of that being produced on site, and more efficiently, Foxwoods expects to save $2 million to $4 million per year.
Charlene Jones, chairwoman of the Mashantucket Pequot Utilities Authority credits a nearly $7 million grant from the Department of Public Utility Control with expediting the construction. "The tribe began really planning for cogen about five years ago," Jones said.
The project cost Foxwoods about $30 million and is expected to pay for itself in about ten years.