$890M plant will boost region, officials say


By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

LORDSTOWN

The concept of a billion dollars is hard for most people to wrap their heads around.

So is the idea that you can take an invisible substance such as natural gas and turn it into another invisible thing – electricity.

But thanks to speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony Monday for the $890 million Lordstown Energy Center power plant on Henn Parkway in the Lordstown Industrial Park, those in attendance got a better picture.

Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy Future, who developed the project, used two glass jars and a paper “factory” to illustrate the gas, the new Lordstown Energy Center and the electricity it will generate.

“This is the beauty of what we bring. We take a product you can’t see. We put it into a high-tech black box that’s managed and put together by Siemens, and we produce something you can’t see. If we were in Vegas, people would say, ‘That must be a magic trick.’

“But we are not in Vegas. We re in beautiful Lordstown. And this is what we do,” Siderewicz said.

Later, Tom Humphries, CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, summed up the nearly billion of dollars in investment in the plant as an event that happens only about 10 times each year in the United States.

But, as Humphries proudly pointed out, ”We’ve had three in the last 10 years.”

Humphries was referring to the billion of dollars spent by the Lordstown General Motors plant down the street from Henn Parkway a decade ago to build the Cobalt and Cruze automobiles. The second billion-dollar investment was at the Vallourec Star pipe mill in Youngstown.

And the third is Lordstown Energy Center, which will generate 940 megawatts of electricity when 500 construction workers and the Siemens Corp. finish construction in May 2018.

Several speakers kept the immense scale of the project in mind when they discussed the Siemens Corp., whose American president and CEO is 1976 Poland Seminary High School graduate Eric Spiegel. Siemens is the electricity-generating technology partner and investor in the center. It has 348,000 employees in 190 countries, including 50,000 in the United States.

Siderewicz and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, marveled at the cooperation shown by government leaders and workers up and down the spectrum. Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill profiled some of the project’s details including zoning, licensing and regulatory issues.

“He spent so much time here, he could almost qualify as a village resident,” Hill said of Siderewicz, of the Boston area.

Hill, a part-time mayor, could have made only pennies per hour for the amount of time he spent on the project, Siderewicz said.

“This is a big day here,” Hill said. “Our schools will receive over $20.6 million over the next 17 years. The impact of this project to the local economy over the next 40 years is predicted to be between $13 and $14 billion dollars.”

About 20 full-time workers will staff the facility when it is finished.

An analysis by Dominion East Ohio in the summer of 2013 was the key to picking Lordstown for the project, Siderewicz said. Clean Energy Future analyzed about 15 sites, but Dominion said Lordstown was the best.

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