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Energy Solutions mum on possible China Energy involvement in power plant projects


The State Journal

WEIRTON, W.Va.  — Energy Solutions Consortium has talked with China Energy and a number of other potential investors about its natural gas power plant projects in Brooke and Harrison counties, but a spokesman has said that’s about all he can say about those discussions.

Thursday China Energy said it plans to invest as much as $83.7 billion in shale gas and chemical manufacturing projects in West Virginia over the next two decades. Afterward, Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher told news outlets power plant projects in West Virginia had piqued the Chinese company’s interest.

“What I can tell you is with Harrison, Energy Solutions already has an equity partner, Caithness Energy,” spokesperson Chris Wilkerson said. “I do believe Energy Solutions has been talking to a number of investors, including China Energy, about the possibility of an equity partnership in the Brooke County location. I can tell you the only two natural gas power plants currently in the permitting process in Harrison and Brooke counties are the two by Energy Solutions.

“For the Harrison project, I can tell you Caithness Energy and Energy Solutions applaud the investment by China Energy in West Virginia, but I cannot comment directly on specific investment discussions regarding the projects. And in Brooke, I can tell you the same thing — I can’t comment directly on discussions they’re having with various potential investors.”

Energy Solutions has already obtained site certification for the Harrison project, a single combustion turbine generator and one heat recovery steam generator that would generate enough electricity to power about 425,000 homes. An evidential hearing was held in Charleston on the Brooke County project, which involves construction of two turbine generators and two heat recovery steam generators.

The 830 megawatt Brooke County power plant, which Energy Solutions wants to build in Colliers, would create enough energy to power around 700,000 homes, the company said. It also would create around 1,100 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

General Electric is an Energy Solutions development partner with both projects, he said.

Wilkerson said the Harrison and Brooke projects would be baseload natural gas power plants, pointing out West Virginia has been lagging in that area. While neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania already have some baseload natural gas plants “and they’re building more,” up to now West Virginia has not built any.

“West Virginia sits on one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world, yet we’re behind our neighbors,” he pointed out. “The only ones in this state … are the ones we’re talking about.”

Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle, said announcements like the China Energy MOU “are fantastic for the area and follow the same trajectory of other international investments” in the area, among them Pietro Fiorentini and Bidell Gas Compression. Both chose Weirton locations.

“What’s exciting about this announcement, the memorandum of understanding (with China Energy), is it follows…other recent announcements of international companies opening their first U.S.-based manufacturing operations in the State of West Virginia in general and, hopefully, the Northern Panhandle in particular,” he said.

Ford said international investors have shown a lot of interest in three reclaimed brownfield sites in West Virginia’s northernmost counties — the former Wheeling Coating property in Beech Bottom, the former RG Steel property in Follansbee, and property ArcelorMittal no longer needs for its steel plant in Weirton — as well as property Mountaineer Park doesn’t need for its casino and horse racing operations.

“There’s no way we could have queued up brownfield sites so quickly to meet (those) opportunities without US EPA, US EDA and WVEDA,” he said. “EPA helped clean up the brownfield sites, while state and local EDA are loaning us money to close deals on the sites, that’s how important those four sites are. They’re prime sites for everything (that’s being discussed), and they’re also clearly on the radar of national and international prospects.”

Staff writer Linda Harris can be reached at 304-374-0403 or email [email protected]

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