Gas-Fired Power Plant Planned For Asylum Township
By Rick Hiduk
Moxie Energy LLC only has a few more hurdles to jump before it can put plans into action to begin construction of a state-of-the-art 800-megawatt combined cycle power plant in Asylum Township that will tap the region’s abundant natural gas as a fuel source. Moxie president Aaron Samson unveiled the plans in front of Central Bradford County Chamber of Commerce members at the Towanda Country Club in Wysox Township on Sept. 16.
Samson explained that the gas boom is what drew Moxie to the area to develop what is considered to be one of a new generation of power plants, cooled by condensers rather than in cooling towers.
“One of the advantages here is that there is no need for a back-up fuel,” Samson related, noting that similar gas-fired plants often use diesel fuel as a back-up if the natural gas supply is disrupted. Having the gas right at its doorstep will save Moxie $30 to $40 million per year in transportation costs alone.
Although the facility will be located along the river on property that Moxie will purchase from Larry Fulmer, there will be no need to draft river water for the operation, which will push electricity produced by two steam turbine generators into the grid via the 230 kv substation adjacent to the CraftMaster Plant in Wysox Township. The plant’s unique single-shaft system, said Samson, will allow for more flexibility and quicker start-ups.
“It’s unlikely that there will be another (plant) of this size built in this part of the state,” he told chamber members and invited dignitaries. “Only five percent of power companies in the United States use air-cooled condensers, but this technology is growing.”
Samson noted that the company considered sites in both Wysox and Asylum townships and decided to build Moxie Liberty LLC in Asylum Township because there were less zoning restrictions there. The company opted for the compressor cooling system rather than one that would utilize river water in order to avoid involvement with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Nonetheless, Moxie must satisfy requirements of Pennsylvania DEP for air permits, which Samson expects will be addressed in short order. The property will require approximately $10 to $15 million in upgrades, and the company plans to tap into the new water and sewer system under construction in Wysox Township.
The Moxie Liberty plant will dominate the landscape and be clearly visible to motorists crossing the Susquehanna River from Wysox into Asylum Township via the Route 187 bridge. The design features two 150-foot towers, from which the remnants of the super-cooled air will be released. A fan deck, supporting a 36-foot fan powered by a 150-hp motor, will be built 60 feet in the air to allow for maximum air flow. Addition elements of the plans are geared to limited noise emissions from the plant, which, Samson indicated would be 51 to 52 decibels at the most at 400 feet.
“Overall, the potential impact on people is very small,” Samson stated. At 32 acres, the footprint of the plant is relatively compact, he added, due in large part to the gas turbine technology.
“This represents the next generation of turbines and the next state of efficiency,” Samson remarked after his presentation, noting that the Moxie Liberty plant will harness 60 percent of the energy created, compared to about 35 percent for the most modern coal-fired plants.
State Rep. Tina Pickett hailed the power plant as a “great opportunity for the area” and a prime example of the value-added industry that can be developed around the natural gas industry. While she cautioned that it is important to keep coal-fired plants in the picture, she suggested that they might no longer be viable when they are due for technology upgrades. Pickett remarked that she would just as soon see Pennsylvania’s coal exported to China while Pennsylvania finds more ways to use its natural gas reserves.
“It’s amazing what we can do here and base it on the natural gas,” Sen. Gene Yaw concurred, adding that he was curious to know how the 180- to 200-degree air that will be released through the plant’s stacks might be used to heat future companies that situate themselves near the Moxie facility.
Construction on the power plant, which is estimated to cost about $800 million, might begin as early as late 2012, and the facility could be operational by early 2015. It will necessitate the employment of as many as 500 workers at its peak, with an average of 200 workers through completion. Once the Moxie Liberty power plant is operational, it will require only about 30 people to run, but those will be high-paying technical positions.