If all goes as planned, in less than four years the Toledo suburb of Oregon will be home to a new natural-gas-fired power plant that developers say will be one of the most efficient generation plants in the United States.
North American Project Development LLC, a Boston-based energy group, announced plans Wednesday to build an 800-megawatt plant on a 30-plus-acre site just south of the BP-Husky Oil Toledo Refinery in Oregon. Officials say the plant would provide enough power to meet the annual electricity needs of about 500,000 homes. The project is expected to cost about $850 million.
The developers behind the project include members of the same team that built a 700-megawatt gas-fired plant near Fremont a decade ago. They say the projects are very comparable.
"If you want a feel for what it may look like, you can drive over to Fremont and that will be pretty much it," said William J. Martin, a managing partner with North American Project Development. "Ten years have passed since that project was created, so there's been refinements in technology. We believe we'll be probably the most efficient power plant in American and also one of the lowest environmental emissions, which is really important to us."
Mr. Martin was co-developer of the Fremont plant with Calpine Corp. When Calpine was going through a bankruptcy, the plant was sold to Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. in 2008. FirstEnergy sold it to American Municipal Power Inc. in 2011, and it went online this year.
The proposed plant would use two gas turbines and one steam turbine. The natural gas the plant would use is the same fuel that many people use to cook and heat their homes.
Construction is still at least a year away and is expected to take 26 to 30 months, but North American Project Development officials said they've submitted their air permit application and felt the project was far enough along to make their plans public. They joined Oregon city officials and others Wednesday to give an overview of their plans.
Michael Beazley, Oregon city administrator, said city officials have been in talks about the plant for about a year.
"We think it's the sort of project that can put a lot of people to work, be a reliable source of power, and it's good for the community," he said. "Oregon is one of the most significant energy centers if you look at it in the Midwest, and this will continue to position us that way."
Bill Siderewicz, a managing partner with North American Project Development, said he hoped construction crews would break ground on the new plant sometime in the early fall of 2013.
"None of these projects are simple," he said. "They're incredibly complex technically, and commercially, and legally. So we'll work our way through, go step by step. We know exactly what we need since we were involved in the Fremont project, so there shouldn't be any surprises."
Part of the reason North American Project Development is moving forward with the project is theexpected downsizing and shut-downs of several regional coal-fired plants, including FirstEnergy Corp.'s Bay Shore plant in Oregon. The Toledo Edison parent firm is retiring three coal-fired generators that together represent about 500 megawatts of capacity. North American Project Development says a total of 1,611 megawatts of coal-fired capacity will be going offline in coming years.
"The market [for generation] started coming back about two years ago so I started looking all through Ohio, not just here," Mr. Martin said. "But I saw this was a real load center. Northwest Ohio has industry, it has electrical load. It became clear some of the coal plants that were supplying the area are going to shut down. So then I started looking for the other ingredients, not just gas, not just water, not just high-tension lines, but also a community that would really support this kind of development."
Officials say they have the necessary funding through the Energy Investors Fund, a private equity firm that works exclusively in the independent power and electric utility industry.
The developers would retain ownership of the plant, tie into the grid, and sell power to a utility.
Mr. Martin said PJM Interconnection, a group that serves as an independent grid manager for the eastern United States, has finished an initial feasibility study that looks favorable. Further studies still need to be completed, and the company still needs to arrange for a high-capacity gas supply line and negotiate with a buyer for the electricity generated.
"We're getting a very favorable response from the market, but we have to turn that into contracts," Mr. Martin said.
Mr. Siderewicz said he can easily envision 400 to 600 construction workers on the project site at any time. Once finished, the plant will create about 25 full-time jobs.
Oregon City Council President Tom Susor said council is very receptive to the project and is "looking to progress this thing as seamlessly as we possibly can, and help or stay out of the way."
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