New natural gas power plant in Oregon opens
His voice slightly raised to get above the low thrum of the Oregon Clean Energy power plant behind him, Gov. John Kasich made clear on Monday where he stands on Ohio’s electric future.
“This is the future. This is a big deal,” the governor said of the Oregon plant.
On 30 acres, the gas turbines at Oregon Clean Energy generate 870 megawatts — nearly as much electricity as FirstEnergy Corp.’s sprawling Davis-Besse nuclear power station in Ottawa County, which produces 900 megawatts. And, thanks to a glut of natural gas in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere across the United States, the new plant does so with significantly better economics.
That’s been a boon to places like Oregon, where access to water, natural gas, and the electric grid have come together to lure in some $1.7 billion in new investment from independent power companies.
About half of that went to the Oregon Clean Energy plant, which began producing electricity for customers on July 1 and is owned by investment funds Ares Management L.P. of Los Angeles and I Squared Capital of New York. The other $900 million will go to a nearby second gas-turbine facility, owned and developed by Manchester, Mass.-based Clean Energy Future LLC, which is expected to start construction next year.
Speaking ahead of a ribbon-cutting for the Oregon Clean Energy plant, Mr. Kasich said the state must continue to be an attractive place for those kinds of projects.
“I think it’s important that Ohio stay in a deregulated environment which brings these investors,” Mr. Kasich said. “If all of a sudden you don’t have a level playing field, then you don’t have significant investment. People go in another place.”
While the governor didn’t mention FirstEnergy in his prepared remarks, the Akron-based utility seemed to be on his mind. The company has sought help from the state legislature to force customers to subsidize the operations of its two nuclear plants, including Davis-Besse.
Otherwise, FirstEnergy has said, the sites will close.
Mr. Kasich did take a question after the event on whether he could in any way support that company’s request for what critics have called a bailout.