Officials break ground on new Salem Twp. Power plant

Author: Elizabeth Skrapits

Source: Citizens Voice

SALEM TWP. – In 1979, the year he graduated from Berwick High School, John Gordner witnessed a multimillion-dollar power plant, the PPL Susquehanna Stream nuclear facility, being constructed just across the county border.

“We saw the impact of that once-in-a-lifetime project,” said Mr. Gordner, now a state senator, at a site just down the road from the nuclear plant, now owned by Talen Energy.

The facility created jobs and spurred economic growth, not just for Salem Twp., but the entire region, he said. And on Thursday, he was among state and local officials who gathered to break ground for another power plant, Moxie Freedom, which will use natural gas exclusively from the Marcellus Shale.

“We’re lucky enough some 35 years later to have lightning strike twice, with another $1 billion project,” Mr. Gordner said.

Ross Ain, executive vice president of New York-based Caithness Energy, an independent power producer that is partnering with Moxie Energy LLC, said that the Moxie Freedom plant will produce more than 1,000 megawatts of energy, or enough to power about 900,000 homes throughout the region.

During the 34-month construction period, Mr. Ain estimates there will be an average of 250 jobs, and a payroll of more than $80 million.

When built, the facility should provide around 25 to 27 permanent jobs, according to testimony at a hearing over the summer.

Gemma Power Systems LLC will build the plant on a 150-acre parcel in an industrial zone on Mingle Inn Road, off Route 11. South Jersey Resources, a Texas-based natural gas marketing company, is also involved in the project.

State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Twp., credited Salem Twp. Officials – Salem Township Supervisors Richard Talanca and Joseph Siecko were among those present on Thursday – for being “extremely business friendly” while looking out for the community and the environment.

The combined-cycle plant, in which the heat produced during the generation process is captured and converted into more electricity, will use the latest technology, making it 6 percent more efficient than anything else on the market, and use 99 percent less water than other power plants, Ain said.

The plant is also “not a noisy operation,” with sound levels that will be very difficult to detect.

Gordner cited the availability of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale and the “incredible workforce” in Pennsylvania, including Berwick-based contractor Don E. Bower Inc., which is doing the site preparation, as factors in the long-term commitment to the community by Moxie and Caithness.

The natural gas to power the plant will come from Cabot Oil & Gas wells in Susquehanna County, via the Transco interstate pipeline. The gas will be brought into the Transco by way of the Springville gathering system, which connects to it in Dallas Township.

Cabot spokesman George Stark said the company is “truly excited” to be bringing locally produced natural gas to the benefit industry as well as residents.

With the Transco pipeline almost literally in the backyard and an existing connection to the power grid in the front yard, Moxie President and Chief Executive Officer Aaron Samson believes you couldn’t ask for a better place to put a natural gas-fired power plant. For example, the Moxie Liberty power plany in Asylum Township, Bradford County required four miles of pipeline to connect to its natural gas source, and the electrical transmission grid was eight miles away, he said.

Electricity produced at the plant will go into the nearby PJM Interconnection grid – a high-voltage electricity transmission line system – and on to the open market, serving local and regional customers and later, markets throughout the northeast.

Caithness Energy’s President and Chief Operating Officer Leslie J. Gelber said in a prepared statement that the new plant will “support local jobs and stabilize regional power prices.”

But it will also compete with the neighboring nuclear plant.

“Certainly it would be a competitor, because it is sold into the market on PJM Interconnect,” said Todd Martin, media relations manager for Talen Energy.

But, he said, the company intends to continue to deliver value to its customers.

“We have been operating in a competitive market, we are doing so very effectively,” Martin said. “We have been delivering reliable energy…to our customers for decades, and will continue to do so in the future.”

Moxie Energy had to go through several hurdles since the project was first announced in June 2014, including approval from Salem Township officials and obtaining an air quality permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“Starting with a community that understands power plants helps a great bit,” Samson said.

Samson said Salem Township’s planning commission, zoning hearing board and supervisors have been good to work with, as have the “folks at DEP.”

“It’s been a great experience here,” he said.

And he promised Moxie Freedom would be a good neighbor.

“We’ll do our best to keep the neighborhood happy,” he said.

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