Lordstown Power Plant to Offer Hands-on Education

WARREN, Ohio – When construction on the Lordstown Energy Center is completed in 2018 and its turbines begin to spin, the provision of electricity to communities throughout northeastern Ohio won’t be its only task.

As Clean Energy Future LLC President Bill Siderewicz sees it, the power plant will also play in role in educating students through the Mahoning Valley. He envisions tours for high school students, internships for college students — even mentors for students interested in pursuing careers in energy.

“We see this as ranging from kindergarten to graduate school,” he said. “We’ve all been influenced by people around us and we hope to be the spark that gets someone studying a new topic because of what they saw.”

Speaking Thursday at the Greater Western Reserve Boy Scout Council’s annual Trumbull County Friends of Scouting breakfast, Siderewicz told the audience of supporters and Eagle Scouts that the benefits of the plant extend beyond the tangible results of power provided, taxes paid and community events attended.

“I see it as an incredible learning opportunity for Lordstown High School, local community colleges and students at Youngstown State [University],” he said. “This is hands-on learning, seeing and doing. They study statistics, algebra, chemistry and those are wonderful topics, but when you see it in action, it bridges knowledge and know-how.”

Once completed, the power plant will have three turbines – two running on natural gas, the third on steam – producing up to 940 megawatts, enough power to furnish 850,000 homes with electricity. The turbines, each weighing more than 600,000 pounds, will spin at 3,600 revolutions per minute as temperatures exceed 2,200 degrees. Engineers will use an automated system to monitor most functions at the plant.

For students, Siderewicz looks to interns from YSU, citing it as an example, seeing or working with the system and machinery. Such firsthand involvement, he said, is far better than simply reading a textbook about generating electricity.

“If there’s a junior at YSU studying electrical engineering, they can work at the plant for a couple of months between semesters and get a real hands-on understanding of how theoretical engineering relates to practical engineering,” he said.

Organizations such as the Boy Scouts could also benefit from the Lordstown Energy Center’s operation as mentors are brought into the fold and scouts visit the plant.

“The people working there will potentially be mentoring our scouts,” said Jessica Gaskell, district executive for the Arrowhead District, which serves Trumbull County and part of eastern Portage County. “We can get new merit badge counselors and more involvement from the community, as well as give our scouts new experiences to earn merit badges that are related to this project.”

Benjamin Hartman, an Eagle Scout with Troop 4090, said that while Boy Scouts as a whole provide members with valuable experiences and teaches important skills, opportunities to visit and work with places such as the Lordstown Energy Center are equally important.

“[Boy Scouts of America] teaches dedication, responsibility and hard work. Doing things like this sets us apart,” he said. “If two resumes come in that are the same but one says, ‘I did this as a Boy Scout,’ then that’s the one that will be chosen.”

At the breakfast, Siderewicz also outlined details of the project, categorizing information into 16 Boy Scout merit badges, such as American Labor, Chemistry, Engineering, Safety and Welding.

“Welding is a lost art in some parts of the world, but it’s a strength here in the Valley,” he said of the final badge. “There’s an amazing capability here that goes back to the steel mills.”

The purchase of the land was completed in early April after nearly two years of talks with investors and government officials, but now that construction on the site has begun, Siderewicz said he’s excited for both the plant and for the communities it serves.

“We’ll be producing some of the lowest-cost electricity in Ohio, which is an economic boost to the Valley. [There are] many jobs occurring in a short period of time with hundreds of union workers on our site getting meaningful paychecks, along with our contributions to the community such as taxes and services,” he said. “For me personally, that’s what’s exciting.”

Pictured: Bill Siderewicz addresses the Boy Scouts breakfast.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.