Power plant could double investment

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 16, 2000

CME North American Merchant Energy LLC will double its investment in a proposed natural gas fired power plant in Hamilton Township.

Saturday, September 16, 2000

CME North American Merchant Energy LLC will double its investment in a proposed natural gas fired power plant in Hamilton Township.

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And local economic development officials say that means more future jobs.

The company has filed applications with American Electric Power to distribute electricity from its high-power County Road 1 substation – pushing for a 2,200 to 2,400 megawatt generating capacity, company president William Martin said.

That capacity increased from 1,000 megawatts and means an $800 million investment instead of the $400 million figure CME announced earlier this year when it chose what’s known as the Rollyson site near Hanging Rock.

Martin spoke Friday to Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce members, outlining the company’s change in plans.

If approved, the power plant investment will bring about 300 construction jobs over a four- to five-year building cycle, Martin said.

"It also means if you own a grocery store or some other store in the path of this labor force, you will certainly see more customers than you have before," he said.

Although the company will aggressively seek tax abatements, larger investments can mean larger tax revenue for local governments and schools, he added.

That’s all good news to a county struggling with job losses and a changing economy, Hamilton Township trustee Bob Blankenship said.

"We’re getting more and more and more excited," Blankenship said. "If I had my way, I’d say it’s a go."

Chamber president Richard Slack called CME’s newest plans the beginning of a lot of positive things headed Lawrence County’s way.

The fact that CME’s investment could top $1 billion when considering the $800 million only reflects construction of the plant, chamber executive director Pat Clonch said.

Site preparation work, a $200,000 archaeological study already ordered and other studies will increase monetary commitments, Mrs. Clonch said.

"Why am I so excited?" she said. "You cannot imagine what this will do when you can say to an interested industry, ‘You’ll never have a brownout or a blackout,’" because a several thousand megawatt supply is available locally.

Still, CME must overcome several obstacles before a power plant rises from the 280 acres the company has an option to purchase, Martin said.

Those battles include the right agreements with AEP to distribute the plant’s wholesale power to private marketers, archaeological studies, air permits and construction time constraints, he said.

"I am 100 percent convinced we will win each one of those battles."

If CME wins, the stacks will rise – determined by emissions and the height of nearby hills – and the company will begin making power from natural gas.

The plant will use a jet-engine-like turbine burning natural gas to heat a large-capacity boiler that draws water from the Ohio River. The resulting steam will turn generators more efficiently than steam in coal-fired power plants, Martin said.

The efficiency will make the power cheaper, allowing the company to sell it competitively to power distributors around the country, he said.