Footprint Power Salem Harbor Station
The 1951 Salem Harbor Station was a 748 MW coal-fired power plant occupying a 65-acre site in the historical maritime hub of Salem, Massachusetts. Topped by three highly visible smokestacks piercing the skyline, it was long targeted as a polluter and included in Massachusetts’ so-called “Filthy Five,” resulting in a 2014 shut down for violations of the Clean Air Act. As part of COOKFOX’s initiative to think upstream regarding both energy production and distribution, the studio collaborated with the sustainable power solutions start-up, Footprint Power, to redevelop the site.
The new, low-emission, 674 MW gas-fired, combined cycle facility sits on just 20 acres of the original site, allowing mixed and industrial uses on the remaining 45 acres. Located adjacent to the Salem Common Historic District and visible from the entirety of Salem Harbor, the new station’s design required careful consideration of its historical context. The team was tasked with creating a compact configuration and contextual cladding, as well as carefully landscaping the surrounding site. The new, single low stack serves as both a beacon for the community and as a navigational tool, guiding sailors through the harbor. The facility is protected by a gently sloping, bermed park planted with native species, offering wildlife habitat and reducing the structure’s perceived height. Similar in size to the Salem Common, the park offers seven acres of new publicly accessible green space. It also serves as a security perimeter, a resiliency measure offering protection from rising sea levels, and an on-site rainwater harvesting system capturing over three million gallons per year for greywater reuse.
The opportunity to design a new plant supplying energy across ISO New England’s grid was a chance to effect power generation at its source and substantially impact future renewable energy production throughout the region. The state-of-the-art facility reduces New England’s yearly carbon emissions equivalent to removing 90,000 vehicles from the road, but its efficient design also reaches beyond its own immediate reductions. The station features a “Quick Start” capability, promoting the future development of renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, by providing much needed, readily available backup to account for constantly changing weather conditions. The positive environmental impact of the adaptable facility will be felt for years to come, both in historical Salem and throughout the region.