Lordstown Energy Center up and running

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Sitting on a 16-acre

site, the newly operational Lordstown Energy Center features gigantic gas and steam turbines, generators and other equipment used in the electricity generation process.

The real nerve center of the site, however, sits across from the plant in a control center where workers monitor each and every aspect of the facility on about 20 computer screens.

“Everything is controlled from a computer,” explained plant manager Drew Schneider.

“The person in the control room starts, stops and monitors all the equipment.”

Schneider can even monitor aspects of the plant from an application on his cellphone.

Two years after ground was broken at the site on Henn Parkway in the Lordstown Industrial Center, Lordstown Energy announced Tuesday that it is up and running. The 940-megawatt natural-gas-fueled plant is slated to serve about 850,000 households in the PJM Interconnection, a regional power grid. Electricity generated at Lordstown Energy will primarily supply customers in Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania, officials said.

They also noted the efficiency of gas-fueled plants such as this one.

“It’s basically 10 percent more efficient than it was 15 years ago, but it’s much more efficient than coal,” said Schneider, who moved to the area to manage the plant after working in leadership positions at several plants in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Schneider works for WorleyParsons, which is responsible for operating the plant. The plant is owned by several investors, with Australia-based Macquarie Group owning a majority 70 percent share. Siemens owns a 25 percent stake, while Boston-based Clean Energy Future LLC, which developed the project, owns 5 percent.

Schneider said much of the plant’s efficiency is due to its two state-of-the-art gas turbines, which he likens to jet engines – “except much, much larger.”

“It’s rotated at 3,600 rpm [revolutions per minute]. It’s attached to a generator, so that’s how we make electricity,” he explained.

The plant employs 21 full-time workers: 10 operators, two maintenance mechanics, three instrumentation control workers/electricians, four managers, a warehouse worker and an administrative worker. Schneider estimated the average payroll and benefits will be about $3 million.

“There’s only 21 of us here, but there were 800 or 900 who were here building this on and off for two years,” Schneider noted. “There’s a lot larger impact.”

The total investment in building the plant was about $900 million, and officials have said the facility is expected to have billions of dollars’ worth of economic impact in the Mahoning Valley in the coming decades.

Clean Energy Future plans to build a second energy center – also slated to be a roughly $900 million project – nearby, but those plans are currently the subject of ongoing litigation.

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