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Construction may begin this year on Ohio gas plant
Veteran energy industry executive William Martin said Friday he is reviewing offers to purchase the entire output of a 800-MW natural gas-fired plant on which construction could begin later this year at a 30.5-acre site near Oregon, Ohio, a Toledo suburb.
Martin's comments came in an interview after his company, North America Project Development, submitted a formal application to the Ohio Power Siting Board for the Oregon Clean Energy Center combined-cycle project.
Martin said he hopes to receive a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need from the seven-member board by April.
In both the interview and application, Martin stressed the importance for the plant to begin commercial operation by May 2016, a fairly ambitious timetable, "so we can take advantage of summer load, when [power prices] are higher" in the PJM Interconnection market. "And, it's also realistic. It gives us an almost three-year construction period."
Steve Irwin, public outreach coordinator for the board, would not predict when a final decision will be made. "Right now, the compliance review is starting by staff, and can take up to 60 days," he said. "Once the application is accepted, hearings will be scheduled."
No other gas plant applications are pending before the board, however, and only a single wind energy project is still under formal review.
In addition to the siting board, the Boston-based company Martin co-owns with William Siderewicz has filed with PJM for electric transmission interconnect approval and with the Toledo Division of Environmental Services, which would issue an air permit in concert with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Martin, who declined to reveal the estimated cost of the project, said he is confident all of the plant's output will be sold on a long-term basis.
"We have a small handful of firms that have given us proposals and we're sorting through that now," he said. "We have proposals that will result in the sale of all 800 megawatts."
Although he would not identify the prospective purchasers, he described them as "among the group of entities you would anticipate that would want to buy energy from us, and are participants in PJM."
In the application, North America Project Development said the new gas plant is needed to offset the loss of generation in the region from the retirement of older coal units, largely in response to Environmental Protection Agency rules.
Oregon Clean Energy "will help meet energy demand in the region, particularly in light of the planned retirement of 1,611 megawatts of existing coal-fired generating assets currently serving that need" in both northern Ohio and neighboring Michigan, the company said. "The Oregon Clean Energy Center will help meet this need by providing additional baseload and peaking capability via its natural gas-fired combined-cycle technology."
FirstEnergy, an Akron, Ohio-based utility, shuttered several coal units in northern Ohio in September and plans more closings over the next few years.
It appears unlikely that FirstEnergy might buy power from Oregon Clean Energy, though, because FirstEnergy and American Municipal Power announced in November they entered into a non-binding memorandum of understanding to construct a 873-MW gas-fired plant at the site of FirstEnergy's 1,257-MW Eastlake baseload coal plant in northeast Ohio. Construction is expected to begin in the latter half of 2014. AMP, with headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, is a wholesale power supplier to nearly 130 cities in six states.
According to Martin, "a little over 1 million worker hours" would be needed to build the gas plant and it would have about 25 permanent employees.
Nearly a decade ago, Martin co-developed the 700-MW Fremont Energy gas plant in Ohio with Calpine. In 2008, Fremont was sold to FirstEnergy. Then, in 2011, AMP acquired the the plant. It began commercial operation in February 2012.
After forming CME International in 1992, Martin was the lead developer of the first independent power project in North Africa, partnering with Caterpillar.
In 2011, Martin and Siderewicz founded North America Project Development to develop combined-cycle gas plants primarily in the Northeast.