Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New gas-fired power plant proposed along Ohio River

With older, smaller coal-fired power plants going off line in the next 12 months, there is a question of whether the grid will have enough capacity in severe weather (pardon the TV meteorology term) such as this past winter. Perhaps gas will step in.

In the Wheeling area, there is one such project in the works, in which a gas-fired plant would essentially replace the capacity being lost when the Kammer plant shuts down.

This plant would not be built and operated by a utility such as AEP or FirstEnergy. Instead, it would be a merchant plant. And it would be owned by the county and leased to an operator as a way of avoiding property taxes.

A couple of things in there will draw scrutiny. For one thing, will the county want to get into the power business? Second, is the merchant business strong enough to justify the investment? Duke Energy is selling off its merchant fleet, including several plants along the Ohio River between Huntington and Cincinnati. If the market were lucrative, I couldn't see Duke doing that. But to me the merchant electricity business, in which independent companies sell electricity to the utilities that deliver it to your home, has a lot that I don't know but really need to learn.