Business

Natural gas plant closer to expansion

Bob Taftezon, Bryan Dierick and Ron Halliday, from left, walk past one of the two cooling towers earlier this month at the Satsop Development Park south of Elma.
Bob Taftezon, Bryan Dierick and Ron Halliday, from left, walk past one of the two cooling towers earlier this month at the Satsop Development Park south of Elma. The Olympian

Owners of the Satsop natural gas-fired power plant are one step closer to acquiring all the permits necessary to double production at the plant.

The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council recommended to Gov. Chris Gregoire last week that Chicago-based Invenergy LLC be allowed to go forward with the $400 million project. The governor has 60 days to make a decision.

If approved, the energy company could add two combustion-turbine generators and a single steam generator to its power plant that sits in the shadow of the two long-abandoned, partially built nuclear plants at Satsop.

The plant is capable of producing about 650 megawatts of electricity, which would double if the expansion project is built. The expanded plant could generate enough electricity to power roughly 1 million homes.

Company business development director Brent Oakleaf said Monday that there’s no timetable for when the expansion would occur. In an interview earlier this year, Oakleaf said it could be anywhere from a year to 10 years before Invenergy starts work on the expansion project.

The Satsop gas-fired plant could complement less reliable but environmentally friendly wind and solar projects or fill power demands if coal power plants around the region and nation succumb to increased limits on air pollution, including greenhouse gases.

“There is some need for more natural gas plants as coal plants go down,” Nancy Hirsh, policy director of the NW Energy Coalition, has said. She said high-efficiency gas power plants such as Satsop generate roughly one-half to one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions of a coal plant.

EFSEC concluded that the project would produce minimal adverse effects on the environment while providing the region with significant energy benefits. The company has received the necessary air and water quality permits to operate.

Some of the 30 or so neighbors who live within a mile of the project were critical of the plant expansion due to noise pollution from the existing and expanded plant.

Invenergy complies with legal noise limits at the plant, but will install additional acoustic walls and silencers in both the existing plant and the proposed expansion, Oakleaf said.

Duke Energy started construction of the gas-fired Satsop plant, but pulled the plug on the project in 2002. Invenergy bought the project in 2005 for $210 million and completed it.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com

  Comments