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Published: Thursday, 4/10/2003

Work slow, steady on Fremont plant

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Crews install 80-foot-long `tube bundles' of flexible steel in the boilers of the Calpine plant in Sandusky Township. Crews install 80-foot-long `tube bundles' of flexible steel in the boilers of the Calpine plant in Sandusky Township.
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FREMONT - Despite a drop in demand for electricity, construction continues on a $355 million power plant near Fremont.

Calpine Corp. is about halfway finished building the natural gas-fired electric generating plant in Sandusky Township, project manager Roger Bock said yesterday.

The company began construction in October, 2001, and originally planned to begin using the 740-megawatt facility this year.

But an economic slowdown led Calpine to stretch out construction work on the Fremont Energy Center, Mr. Bock said.

“We may finish in 2004, or adjust further as the market conditions warrant,” he said. “The economy softened, and the demand for electric power is low. When the economy improves, the demand for power will pick up.”

About 110 workers are busy at the 95-acre site off County Road 138, completing the plant's generation building, which will house two combustion turbines, a steam turbine, and two boilers.

Since mid-March, crew members have been installing 80-foot-long “tube bundles” of flexible steel in the boilers. When the plant is open, 42 of the tube bundles will carry hot exhaust produced by jet engines into water, creating steam to run the plant's generator.

Workers use three cranes to lift each tube bundle “to keep them from flexing too much and turning into a pretzel,” Mr. Bock said.

The bundles, which weigh up to 420,000 pounds each, are then hung from the top of the boiler.

Mr. Bock said workers will finish installing the tube bundles by mid-May.

Four months before construction started, Fremont granted Calpine a 10-year, 100 percent abatement for personal property and real-estate taxes valued at $345 million.

The company agreed to donate 40 percent of the abated amount, totaling about $676,000 a year, to the Fremont City Schools.

Vanguard Sentinel Joint Vocational School will get $24,000 a year, and the city will receive $120,000 annually.

Calpine is to make its first contribution in 2005, and Fremont Mayor Terry Overmyer said he has no concerns about the company's slowdown in construction.

“I feel 100 percent confident that the plant will still proceed to be completed,” the mayor said. “They have got too much money invested to close it down now.”

The city spent more than $1.1 million to install a 24-inch waterline from Christy Road to the plant site, add a 12-inch sewer line, and construct a pump station.

Mr. Overmyer said city officials hope to find out this month when Calpine will open the plant so they can seek bids on an expansion of Fremont's water treatment plant.

That project would expand the treatment plant's capacity from 10 million to 15 million gallons a day.

The average water use in Fremont is about 6 million gallons a day, an amount that could nearly double once the Calpine plant has opened, Mr. Overmyer said.



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