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Lordstown Energy Center holds groundbreaking

LORDSTOWN – Speaking to community and project leaders at Monday’s groundbreaking for the $900 million Lordstown Energy Center facility, Bill Siderewicz, the president and minority owner of Clean Energy Future LLC, promoted the educational opportunities the plant offers to the Valley.

“When this plant is built … the hope is to integrate what is going on in (Lordstown) High School and what is happening right here, then bring Youngstown State University into the swing and create an educational forum for learning and creating that spark that causes someone to say, ‘I wanna go here,'” Siderewicz said.

Lordstown Schools Superintendent Terry Armstrong confirmed discussions with both Lordstown and Youngstown State University on potential educational opportunities for students at the advanced facility. Armstrong said Lordstown schools will have a dedicated science teacher collaborating directly with the plant.

As part of a tax donation agreement with Lordstown schools, the LLC will provide the district with annual money in exchange for 15-year, 100 percent tax abatement. The district will receive $500,000 over the next three years. Once the plant opens, the plant will provide an annual donation of $1 million for the first five years, $1.25 million for the next five years and $1.5 million for the final five years.

Armstrong said the district is using this revenue, in conjunction with successful cost-savings efforts, to hire a new science teacher qualified to teach college-level courses, create new curriculum such as a robotics programs and remodel their planetarium.

Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill said the plant will stabilize Lordstown schools, which has had to borrow money to meet payroll over the last four years.

Representatives from two major equity investors in the plant – Siemens Financial Services, which will manufacture the gas and steam turbines, and Macquarie Infrastructure Partners III – both said their employers are committed long term to the Valley and the plant.

The company said it estimates that the natural gas-fueled power plant will provide $13.8 billion to the area over 40 years.

John Gibson, the senior vice president of the North American Power & Gas Division of Siemens Energy Inc., said it will be one of six U.S. facilities utilizing “industry-leading” H-class Flex-Plant technology, which reduces start-up emissions by up to 95 percent, according to Siemens’ website.

“This will be a 940 megawatt power plant, but what does that really mean? That is enough power to generate 850,000 homes,” Gibson said.

The project will employ 450 workers during the two years of construction, as well as 20 full-time staff once the plant is completed in May 2018, he said. Gibson said the plant will be serviced by Siemens’ technicians from the Midwest.

Siderewicz said an analysis of 14 or 15 sites showed that it was the Lordstown area that offered the necessary water resources needed to power the plant.

“(An analysis from summer 2013 said) all those sites you picked weren’t very good except for Lordstown,” he said.

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said Niles and Warren worked with Lordstown and the LLC to assure the project had the necessary resources, with Warren providing $2.5 million worth of water daily.

“A few years ago we lost our largest water customer,” Franklin said. “This project replaces and exceeds the $1.8 million in revenue we lost. It helps us keep the rates low.”

Before the ground was broken, U.S. Congressman Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, said with the development of this plant, the region will help lead the nation in clean energy technology.

“This is really a force multiplier. You get cleaner energy, less carbon into the atmosphere; you get local employment Everybody wins on this thing,” Ryan said. “We are working to make sure natural gas is really seen as the future, not only for the economy here but for the country and the world.”

news@tribtoday.com

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