Longview to make $1.2 billion investment in natural gas, solar power

MORGANTOWN — Already operating one of the world’s most advanced and efficient coal-fired power plants, Longview Power is ready to invest an estimated $1.2 billion to build natural gas and solar power generation facilities.
Longview Power President and CEO Jeffery Keffer said the company plans to bring the new facilities online in 2020, making Longview an “all of the above” energy center.
The bulk of the investment, about $900 million, will go toward the creation of a natural gas combined cycle plant to be located near Longview’s Fort Martin Road coal facility.
While the gas plant will be significantly smaller, it will generate 1,200 megawatts, far outpacing the 710 megawatts generated by its coal-fired predecessor.
“This will be smaller, but more efficient in a lot of ways because of the type of equipment that’s used,” Keffer said of the gas-powered turbines at the heart of the plant. “We’ll be using the latest types of these so that we’ll have high efficiency. Again, the same idea that went into Longview — the latest equipment, most advanced technology and a fuel that’s abundant and easily available.”
The natural gas facility will be fed using a 6.2-mile, 20-inch gas pipeline that will run into Pennsylvania to connect with Trans Canada’s Columbia 1804 interstate transmission line.
Keffer said all necessary rights of way have been secured, and environmental studies and permitting procedures with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are well under way.
Longview is working with Thrasher Engineering on the $30 million pipeline, the majority of which will run underground.
Once the natural gas plant is completed, the staging areas used in its construction will be part of a series of solar arrays covering 350 acres near the plant and in Pennsylvania.
When the sun is shining, the solar arrays will generate about 50 megawatts, offsetting a significant portion of the power used to operate the coal plant.
“The solar takes about 350 acres and produces 50 megawatts, and that’s if the sun is shining. The gas plant takes 26 acres and produces 1,200 megawatts. That gives you a sense, you know, when people say we’re going to all renewables, I’m not sure where that’s all going to take place,” Keffer said, noting the solar arrays have an estimated cost of $70 million.
He went on to say that the two-plus-year buildout will likely generate about 6,000 construction jobs.
The natural gas plant will likely generate between 30 and 40 permanent jobs.
“Using the infrastructure we already have here reduces our upfront cost. Where we can also economize is just in the number of jobs,” Keffer said. “Typically a plant like this would create maybe 50 jobs, permanently. We would be able to utilize our resources already here in terms of maintenance people, our accounting people and that sort of thing.”
As incentive to build the $2.2 billion coal plant locally, Longview entered into a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the Monongalia County Commission in 2008.
Commission President Tom Bloom said a separate agreement will be worked out regarding the upcoming improvements.
“We’re excited about the investment locally,” Bloom said. “Yes, we will need to set up another agreement. What that is, we don’t know at this time. It’s too premature to say exactly what that would look like.”
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