CLARKSBURG — Work is continuing to bring three natural-gas-fired power plants to West Virginia, with an estimated $2 billion investment in the three projects, an official with Energy Solutions Consortium said.
Energy Solutions is planning to build the power plants in Harrison, Marshall and Brooke counties, spokesman Curtis Wilkerson said.
Energy Solutions and equity partner Quantum Utility Generation, based in Houston, are collaborating on the $615 million Marshall County plant, which is scheduled to go online in the summer of 2019.
The $600 million Harrison plant in Clarksburg and the $800 million Brooke plant in Follansbee are in the preliminary stages, with applications being put together for state Public Service Commission siting certificates. The two plants are on a similar time line, with construction not expected to begin for a couple more years.
The Harrison plant will generate 580 megawatts; the Brooke plant, 750 megawatts.
“There are a number of factors that go into the size, including capacity of transmission lines in the region. And because West Virginia is in the PJM wholesale power grid, there are also long-term power-flow studies that determine needs in specific regions,” Wilkerson said.
PJM Interconnection is part of the Eastern Interconnection grid operating an electric transmission system serving all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
“We’re not competing against other plants in West Virginia, but only others in the 13-state grid. One-third of electricity in the grid is from natural gas,” Wilkerson said. “The Harrison County plant will be the first downstream use of natural gas in Harrison County. There’s more than enough gas in the county and region to power the plant many times over.”
The Harrison power plant will be located on about 20 acres within a 200-acre industrial park planned on Pinnickinnick Hill in the Montpelier Addition of Clarksburg. Two West Virginia law firms are working with government entities on regulations and the voluminous application process at this time.
Harrison officials also are working behind-the-scenes to obtain funding for park infrastructure.
“We’re in the process of applying for a grant for an industrial access road for that park,” Harrison County Administrator Willie Parker said. “The power plant will be the first block and we will build from there. There are both matched and unmatched grants for a total of $750,000.”
Three new power plants in the state provide increased opportunity for utilizing West Virginia Marcellus and Utica gas.
“Throughout the PJM, natural gas power plants are coming on line or being built to make up for retiring power plants, which use multiple forms of generation, from coal to hydro, some of which are more than 60 years old,” Wilkerson said.
These new plants will not only provide needed electricity generation to the region but economic development through construction and permanent jobs to three areas of the state.
“Each of the jobs will have hundreds of construction workers. Construction time is historically 24-30 months. After construction, for example, Harrison County will have 30-40 permanent jobs that pay about $80,000 annually. They anticipate hiring people from the area for those jobs and training them,” Wilkerson said.
Each of the plants is possible due to county approvals of a payment in lieu of tax or PILOT plan to facilitate construction. Under the PILOT, counties will take official ownership of each of plants upon competition, and the firm will lease the facility from the county.
Instead of receiving regular property taxes, commissioners will receive about $31 million worth of lease payments over 30 years via the PILOT plan, Parker said.
“The PILOT program is the only way West Virginia is competitive with other states in the PJM grid for power plant construction,” Wilkerson said.