Energy Solutions Consortium (ESC), based in Buffalo, NY, will begin construction on West Virginia’s very first Marcellus gas-fired electric generating plant sometime “this summer.” The exact date has not yet been set, but should be announced soon. However, in a bit of a surprise (for us), the state’s first natgas-fired plant to get built will not be (as we thought) in Brooke County. Instead, it will be in Harrison County.
Last November the West Virginia Supreme Court effectively ended opposition against building natural gas-fired power plants in the Mountain State. We’ve brought you a number of articles detailing how the coal lobby tried its best, via numerous lawsuits, to block three Marcellus-fired power plants from getting built (see Murray Energy Continues to Block Gas-Fired Plants in WV).
The final attempt to stop these projects was to challenge air permits issued by the WV Public Service Commission (PSC). Isn’t that rich? Coal objecting to air permits for natural gas electric plants, which pollute far less than coal-fired plants. Last November the WV Supreme Court took up a challenge by Big Coal (i.e. coal baron Robert Murray) against one of the projects located in Brooke County, and ruled Big Coal doesn’t have a case (see WV Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Gas-Fired Power Plant).
The Supreme Court decision cleared the way for the WV PSC to issue the necessary permits.
We spotted a story by a local CBS affiliate in Wheeling in February of this year that says the ESC Brooke County project now has all of the necessary permits it needs, and that construction would begin “soon” (see WV NatGas Power Plant Gets Final Permits, Construction Begins Soon). So naturally when we saw the article below saying WV’s first natgas-fired power plant is set to begin construction this summer, we figured it must be the Brooke County project. Nope.
ESC is working on a second/different project–not as big as the Brooke County project–in Harrison County. It’s that project that will be first natgas electric plant to get built in the Mountain State:
Following several years of planning, the developers of a natural-gas-fired power plant planned for a site in Clarksburg’s Montpelier Addition hope to begin construction this summer.
The plant will be West Virginia’s first gas-fired facility.
A firm date for the start of construction has not been set and will depend on factors like weather and the finalization of agreements with local entities like the Clarksburg Water Board and the Sanitary Board. Developers expect work to begin in June or July.
The Harrison County Power Plant, a project of Energy Solutions Consortium and Caithness Energy, will be an approximately 630-megawatt generation facility, which is enough electricity to power approximately 425,000 homes, according to project representatives.
During the plant’s construction phase, which is expected to take around 24 months, the plant will support 400 jobs and will rely on local union laborers.
Developers are aiming for an estimated in-service date of November 2021.
The company estimates the annual overall economic impact of the plant will be about $880 million, and it is expected to provide up to 30 permanent, well-paid positions during the plant’s operating life.
Todd Waldrop, project director, attended the Clarksburg Water Board’s March 12 meeting and asked its members to consider an alternate main water line extension agreement between the utility and the company.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the Water Board would serve as the sole supplier of water to the power plant through a dedicated main line, Waldrop said.
“We want to construct the lateral for the line from North Ohio Avenue up to the fence line of where the facility will be,” he said. “It’s about a 2,500-foot run.”
The power plant is expected to require an average of around 80 gallons per minute, Waldrop said.
Energy Solutions Consortium would foot the bill for construction of the main line and would build it to “the Water Board’s standards,” Waldrop said.
Water Board President Jon Calvert said he supports the power plant project and looks forward to working with its developers.
“It’s going to bring a lot of good-paying jobs and some extra tax base to the area,” he said. “The Water Board is happy to help.”
The terms of the proposed agreement are favorable to the Water Board and its ratepayers, Calvert said.
“It’s going to bring in extra money for us, which will help us keep rates down,” he said. “At the same time, it will provide an economic impact to our area, so we’re really happy about it.”
Power plant developers also met with representatives of the Clarksburg Sanitary Board on March 12 and pitched a similar agreement for sanitary services via an alternate mainline sewer extension agreement.
Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe, who also serves as chairman of the Sanitary Board, said the board’s members are considering the agreement but have yet to take action.
“This is a very significant project to Harrison County and the region,” he said. “The city is fortunate to be in the position that allows for this development to occur. Without continued investment in our infrastructure, the opportunity would most likely not be able to proceed further.”
John Black, vice president of development for the power plant project, said finalization of these two agreements is “critical.”
“It’s a very stingy plant. It doesn’t use very much water at all. Originally, we had proposed taking it out of the river, but the Clarksburg Water Board and the Clarksburg Sanitary Board were able to meet that supply,” he said. “I think that’s a much better situation for the environment because we’re using water that the city is already producing and we are putting it back in the sewer.”
John Wanalista, director of engineering and project management, said developers are still in the middle of negotiations with the project’s potential contractor.
“We’re still in negotiations with an EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractor,” he said. “We’re not at liberty to indicate who that is at this point.”
Even if the water and sewer agreements aren’t fully finalized by the time the contractor is ready to begin work, there are other alternatives, Wanalista said.
“If water and sewer are not there on Day One, there are other ways to obtain the waters that are needed,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of water needed during the initial stages of construction.”
During a recent meeting, Water Board General Manager Dick Welch said installing a temporary water line to supply the project would take less than a “day or so.”
While some residents may have concerns about the construction of a power plant in Montpelier Addition, the project will be much smaller and much less visible than other area facilities, like the Harrison Power Station or the Longview Power Plant near Maidsville, Black said.
This is because both of those facilities are coal-fired facilities, while the Clarksburg plant will utilize locally produced natural gas, Black said.
For example, the emission stacks on the Longview Plant are over 800 feet tall, Black said.
“Ours are less than 200 feet,” he said. “And there are typically no visible emissions out of ours. Where we are, tucked back in that hollow, our stack won’t even exceed the ridge line. Our footprint is smaller than a coal-powered (plant).”
Energy Solutions Consortium also has plans in the works for a second gas-powered facility in Brooke County.
Its Brooke County Power will be a 830 megawatt natural gas power plant capable of powering the equivalent of 700,000 homes.
The $884 million facility is expected to consume $177.5 million worth of natural gas annually, supporting hundreds of jobs in the region associated with the natural gas industry, according to developers.
The facility will require up to 30 full-time and part-time employees. In addition to the jobs onsite, the project is expected to create 1,164 direct, indirect and induced jobs due to requirements for maintenance, supplies, fuel and other needed local services.*
*Clarksburg (WV) WV News (Apr 13, 2019) – Construction of WV’s first gas-fired power plant to start this summer
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