Economic Development

Second Energy Plant Slated for Operation in 2020

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Construction on a second $900 million gas-powered electrical plant along Henn Parkway could begin as soon as January of next year and be in operation by May of 2020, says an executive of the company developing the project.

“It was really the market research that drove us to come back to Lordstown and hopefully develop a second project,” said Bill Siderewicz, president of Boston-based Clean Energy Future LLC.

Siderewicz joined officials from Lordstown, Trumbull County and the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber Wednesday afternoon in the village administration building to make the announcement.

As older and less efficient electrical plants that burn coal are taken offline, more efficient and less costly plants that burn natural gas must replace the energy they furnish. “We did the math,” he said, “and that math concluded for us that there could be a marketplace for two projects of this scale.”

Clean Energy is building an $890 million natural- gas-fueled electrical generation plant — named the Lordstown Energy Center — at a site along Henn Parkway that should be commissioned by the summer of 2018. Ground for the second plant – named the Trumbull Energy Center — should be broken in early 2018, Siderewicz said, just as construction work wraps up on the first project.

Each plant would be capable of producing more than 940 megawatts of power, Siderewicz said. Together, the complex would produce enough power to supply 1.7 million households.

The power plants use less costly natural gas to fuel their operations, Siderewicz said. However, the plants would use a combination of natural gas and steam turbines that make them twice as efficient as coal-powered plants.

Siderewicz said there could be as many as 850 building tradesmen in total employed during the construction phase of the first plant. Once work on that is completed, the tradesmen could simply move to the adjacent project as it ramps up, ensuring another two years of building activity there.

However, a push from major utility companies – especially FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, and Dayton Power and Light — to “re-regulate” energy policy in Ohio could complicate matters for the second project, Siderewicz allowed.

“A gas-powered plant costs about half that of a coal plant in terms of electricity production,” he said.

That would put these larger utilities in a position to either jettison their older plants or appeal to state legislators to reform the regulations that would protect the less efficient operations by imposing higher rates and eliminating competition.

These new laws, Siderewicz remarked, would “turn the clock back to 1998,” before Ohio de-regulated its energy market and utility monopolies dominated the energy consumers buy to heat and power their residences.

“We’ve shown that going backwards would cost rate payers $100 billion,” he said. “That’s a number that, quite honestly, is totally outrageous.”

One component of re-regulation, he said would prohibit private companies from building energy projects in Ohio and that could affect the Trumbull Energy Center.

“The Trumbull Energy Center would basically be dead in the water” should re-regulation take effect, Siderewicz said.

At least 10 natural gas-powered plants across Ohio have either been announced or are in some stage of development. Companies have chosen Ohio because of the gas-rich Utica shale and neighboring Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania. Should all of these plants be built, they could produce electricity sufficient to power 9.8 million houses.

The Trumbull Energy Center project is the latest of four such plants announced in northeastern Ohio over the last two years. Two years ago, Advanced Power began construction of a $900 million major natural gas plant in Carroll County, while the same parent company announced last year plans to build a $1.1 billion electrical generation plant in Columbiana County.

Meantime, Siderewicz said his company is pursuing financing and has lined up the major partners for the Trumbull Energy project. These partners include Siemens Energy, which would supply the equipment to the new plant; Fluor Corp., a global engineering procurement and construction contractor that realizes $19 billion a year in sales; BNP Paribas, the project’s financial adviser; and Siemens Financial Services.

Financing for the Trumbull Energy Center should be secured by December so work could begin early in 2018, Siderewicz said.

The new project would also use 100% union labor for the job, said Rocky DiGennaro, president of the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council.

“What’s important is that these construction jobs has a spinoff economic impact,” he said.

Siderewicz said the Trumbull Energy Center project would result in $1.76 billion in economic activity that includes payments to local vendors, schools and governments in the Mahoning Valley.

The first project led to an agreement between Clean Energy Future and the Lordstown Village School District that includes tax payments to the school district over 15 years. Once the plant is operational, Clean Energy will pay the school district $1 million per year for the first five years, $1.25 million over the next five years, and $1.5 million over the final five years.

The company agreed to help the school system dismantle and raze a vacant middle school at the corner of Salt Springs and Tod Avenue and install a new soccer field encircled by a synthetic running track.

Mayor Arno Hill said incentives for the Trumbull Energy project still need to be worked out, but praised Siderewicz and Clean Energy Future for their commitment to the Lordstown community and the Mahoning Valley.

“Since this gentleman came to town, the whole community has been upbeat,” he said. “The impact he’s made on this community is amazing.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.