A year ago, West Deptford Energy’s power plant sailed through final site plan approval as a 640-megawatt generating station.
By the time the company completed financing on the deal in November, it had been bumped up to 738 megawatts.
At the ceremonial groundbreaking Monday, it got even bigger.
Amid congratulations from state and local officials and breathless descriptions of what the plant represents, now that it’s finally come to fruition, LS Power CEO Paul Segal said the final version of the power plant could be more than 50 percent larger than announced just a few months ago, with plans already underway for a 400-megawatt addition.
“Executing on the expansion won’t be easy, but we’re committed to giving it our all,” Segal said.
The enlarged power plant will still be one of the cleanest around, Segal said, claiming it will be on the order of 20 to 100 times cleaner than typical power plants elsewhere in the region.
“When the West Deptford Energy Station begins to generate electricity in 2014, it will be among the most efficient power plants in the country,” Segal said.
The combined-cycle, natural-gas fired plant has been under development by West Deptford Energy and LS Power since 2006, though the history of trying to build a power plant dates back to the 1990s, when the Crown/Vista project sought to bring a coal-fired plant to the same 300-acre parcel of land.
Even without the planned expansion, the new power plant will generate enough electricity to power more than 700,000 homes. Artist’s concept sketches show the twin generating buildings flanked by massive concrete stacks, set against the marshland along the Delaware River.
Gov. Chris Christie hailed the groundbreaking as a sign of good things to come for construction workers and ratepayers in New Jersey, saying it’s key to bring power plants like this one online to help reduce the cost of energy in the state and make New Jersey more self-sufficient.
“We shouldn’t be held hostage to some regional grid,” Christie said.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney lauded Christie for his work in paving the way for the West Deptford Energy Station to happen, and to solving the twin problems of high energy costs and unemployment in one shot.
“It’s not too hard to figure out what’s wrong: It’s jobs, it’s the economy,” Sweeney said.
There are also the benefits to taxpayers via the $107 million Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, which will be split between the county and West Deptford over 30 years. The township will get the bulk of that, around $96 million, and the company has already made its first $250,000 payment toward that number.
West Deptford Mayor Ray Chintall said there isn’t a firm plan on exactly how the PILOT funds will be spent, since the budget process is ongoing at the moment, but he said the township committee will give a serious look at using the money to accelerate payments on the township’s debt.