- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Charles County officials said they are thrilled that a long-awaited natural gas-fired power plant finally appears ready for construction in Waldorf following recent announcements that the $775 million project had received financing and acquired its location in a St. Charles business park.
Silver Spring-based Competitive Power Ventures announced Friday it had secured financing for the St. Charles Energy Center from General Electric and 14 other lenders.
The St. Charles Cos. followed with an announcement Monday that it had sold 76 acres in the Piney Reach Business Park to CPV for $13 million.
The 775-megawatt plant will cover roughly 20 acres on the site, which sits on Billingsley Road near the county landfill.
Construction of the plant’s underground water and gas lines is already underway, and CPV issued a notice to proceed Friday to its contractor, SNC Lavalin Constructors Inc., with the expectation that crews will begin building the plant in September, said Braith Kelly, CPV’s senior vice president for external affairs.
“They will mobilize, which means get lots of equipment to the site in September, and construction will commence immediately,” he said.
The project will support 350 to 400 jobs during construction, and about 24 permanent positions once the plant comes online, which CPV estimates will happen between June 2016 and June 2017, Kelly said.
The plant will generate enough electricity to power about 700,000 homes while reducing sulfur, nitrogen and carbon emissions by 65 to 99 percent compared to oil- and coal-fired plants. The plant also will use reclaimed sewage water to cool itself, reducing the annual nitrogen and phosphorous discharges into the Potomac River by up to 18,700 and 1,110 pounds, respectively. It will be operated by EthosEnergy Power Plant Services.
Projected to generate $128 million throughout 20 years in payments, connection fees, water and sewer fees, income taxes and reclaimed water sales, St. Charles Energy Center is expected to become one of the county’s largest taxpayers at a time when the county is facing consistently tight operating budgets.
“This is one of the largest projects that comes to mind in a number of years for the county, and certainly with the budget issues that I think we’ve been made aware of, this will certainly be a benefit, so it probably could not have happened at a better time,” Del. Sally Y. Jameson (D-Charles) said.
The county has been trying to locate a power plant at the site for more than a decade and specifically the CPV project since 2007.
“The St. Charles Energy Center project is one of the largest economic development projects in Charles County’s history. A project that involves capital investment of over a half-billion dollars is enviable for any jurisdiction,” Charles County Director of Economic Development Kwasi Holman said in a county news release. “Some 15-plus years of time and planning has been invested by many to reach this milestone, and we are so pleased that CPV has completed their financial closing and is moving toward construction.”
Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles) said he recalled there being interest in locating a power plant at the site when he first joined the state Senate in 1995. He called the project a “big plus” in meeting the county’s economic development goals as well as the state’s increasing energy demands.
“In my lifetime, I don’t know if there will be another project this significant that will be built by the private sector” in the county, Middleton said.
The Maryland Public Service Commission gave the project the green light in April 2012 by ordering three major state utilities to purchase power from the plant. In reaching its decision, the PSC determined the state’s energy demands would require an additional 650 to 700 megawatts of generation by 2015.
But the project has been delayed by a pair of lawsuits — one filed by the three utilities challenging the commission’s authority to require purchasing contracts, and another filed by other electricity generators within the PJM Interconnection grid, the electricity transmission system spanning 13 states and Washington, D.C.
Litigation is ongoing, but thus far the courts have sided with the plaintiffs, essentially canceling the PSC’s order, Kelly said.
“The impact of that is ultimately it makes financing the project a great deal more expensive, which obviously is not beneficial for the project, our sponsors or us, and it’s bad for ratepayers,” he said.
County commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II (D) credited CPV for sticking with the project despite a litany of challenges.
“Hopefully it’s a game changer, but it’s more a reflection of the company’s commitment to the county because they’ve been dealt numerous obstacles to move forward, but they’ve shown a real commitment to our county,” Collins said.
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said the hope is the plant will “jumpstart” industrial development in the business park.
“It’s been a long road, but we’ve worked very closely with CPV to make this happen, and we are extremely gratified that we can bring this economic engine to the county while also providing more cleaner energy to the region,” he said.