WHEELING, W.Va. – The Longview Power coal-fired plant in Morgantown is the cleanest in the world and the most efficient in North America, Longview Power President and CEO Jeff Keffer told members of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. But it’s probably the last of its kind.

That’s why Longview is developing a gas-fired combine cycle plant near its coal plant, he said.

He told the WVONGA members — assembled for the second day of their spring meeting — that a room full of gas people were probably wondering why a coal guy was talking to them. “We’re really not in the coal business,” he told them. Longview’s business is energy conversion: using fuel to produce power; the fuel could be coal or gas or the sun.

The Morgantown – technically Maidsville – plant generates enough electricity to power 700,000 homes, Keffer said. It’s the least expensive fossil fuel plant in the PJM regional network – cheaper even than PJM’s gas-fired plants because those cycle on and off, which raises costs.

But the opportunity to build more coal-fired plants like it has passed, he said. The Trump administration undid the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, but took too long to rewrite the rules.

So gas is the next wave, he said. It’s now the predominant fuel in in the PJM network, making up about 38 percent of its total. And as expensive coal and nuclear plants close, a new generation of fas plants will be needed to supply the baseload.

And West Virginia is missing the boat at the moment, he said. “We’re just not doing a very good job.”

More than 25 new combined cycle gas plants have been built in the states surrounding West Virginia, with four more in the works. West Virginia’s tax environment and glacial regulatory and permitting process, though, are hindering development here.

To catch the wave, Longview is developing a 1,210-megawatt gas-fired combined cycle plant. For comparison, the coal plant is 710 MW. Combined cycle means the gas powers a turbine, and waste heat is routed to a steam turbine to generate additional power.

Building it there will save about $200 million in capital costs because of the existing infrastructure, he said. “This is the kind of thing we need more of in West Virginia.”

The gas-fired plant will occupy 26 acres, compared to 60 for the coal-fired plant, he said.

Longview Power also has its eye on solar, Keffer said.

Solar is still not a baseload option, he said. It’s not dispatchable, meaning you can’t produce what you need when you need it. Solar is intermittent. And it’s more expensive.

But some companies, such as Amazon and Google, demand that power companies that serve them make renewables part of their fuel mix, he said.

So Longview is looking to become a “boutique seller” to companies that require solar power.

Longview is pursuing development, he said, of a 50 MW utility-grade solar installation. The installation would occupy a total 300 acres with 188,000 solar panels, but would be scattered about the area. About 90 acres of the gas plant site would be repurposed for the panels.

The solar project, he said, would be interconnected to Pennsylvania, where Renewable Energy Certificates – a type of tradeable energy credit – are available.

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