MAIDSVILLE, W.Va. — There’s more work to do before construction can begin on a natural gas-powered project Longview Power Station near Morgantown.
The state Department of Environmental Protection approved a key clean air permit this week for the project but CEO Steve Nelson said other hurdles remain before a construction start date can be set.
Stephen Nelson (Longview Power)
“We’re very pleased the air permit is now issued,” Nelson said. “We firmly believe this permit was appropriately vetted and represents the right balance in protecting the environment in terms of reasonable operations.”
Nelson calls the clean air permit approval a “milestone.” But before construction can begin, the company has to negotiate a federal interconnection agreement with PJM. An interconnection agreement is a written notice that the new capacity will be added to the grid and must approved before construction begins.
Inflation and supply-chain issues are also issues that could impact financing and building the project. Nelson said shortages of steel, lumber and connecting hardware are a challenge along with maintaining logistical support to keep materials coming to the job site to maintain productivity.
“At a federal level the political influences that are going on both with the federal regulatory commission and PJM, there are a lot of things changing and it’s a threat to when we will get our agreement,” Nelson said.
Currently, the facility is a a 700-megawatt coal-fired plant that employs 150 full-time workers. The power produced at the current facility is distributed through PJM Interconnection across a 13-state region serving 65 million people.
The expansion is valued at $1.2 billion and includes the addition of a combined cycle facility that will add 1,270 megawatts of generation capacity. Combine cycle technology will use two high-efficiency natural gas-fired turbines to produce electricity. The hot gas by-product is then directed to boilers that create steam for a separate set of turbines that will produce more electricity.
“It’s the same technology that’s bolted onto the wing of an airplane that has jet engines,” Nelson said. “That’s what basically there are, they’re natural gas-fired combustion engines, and there’s a generator connected to it and that spins and produces electricity.”
Demand for electricity is expected to continue rising. Because of that, Nelson said some form of fossil fuel will be needed to keep up with demand and the natural gas option is one of the cleanest available.
“We don’t have carbon dioxide issues like you do in coal. Natural gas has that advantage,” Nelson said. “The CO-2 is the concern of the day now, so if you burn less, meaning higher efficiencies, then you have a lower carbon footprint.”
The project will create 5,000 total jobs in surrounding communities during construction that is expected to continue for about three years. When complete the Maidsville plant will add 30 more full-time jobs, bringing their full-time staff 180.
“Then there’s the indirect impact those jobs have on Monongalia and Green County,” Nelson said. ” The local region will have a great benefit.”
When the combined-cycle portion of the expansion is completed that staging area will be used to add a solar field. The solar field will take a little more than a year to build and will include more than 185,000 solar panels on 300 acres.