Start of power plant construction celebrated near New Carlisle

Published: Apr. 14, 2016 at 5:52 PM EDT
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The atmosphere was electric today near New Carlisle.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for a half billion dollar plant that will produce electricity.

“We'll produce electricity by using natural gas to turn turbines and this is the most efficient way to produce electricity because we take the exhaust from the turbines much like you have on an airplane and we reuse the heat in a boiler, that turns a second turbine called a steam turbine,” said Willard Ladd, President of Development Partners.

Attempts to build a power plant on the site off Walnut Road south of U.S. 20 have been going on for some 14 years now.

In 2002, Allegheny tried-but failed.

In 2005, a company called TONDU had its power plant plans (coal gasification) rejected.

Now in 2016, work has begun on phase one of the St. Joseph Energy Center.

“We’re set up, this is a large site, 165 acres so we’re building the first phase, 700 Megawatts and we have an identical phase (phase two) which will also be on the site which we’re hoping to construct, start construction on in the next year or so,” said Ladd.

The plant they’re building new New Carlisle won’t be the first in Indiana fired by natural gas, but it should be among the first dozen or so.

“At about this moment I think we're 83, 84 percent in terms of energy production from coal, but as time goes on, that is going to decrease, I believe, as the developments take place,” said David Stippler, Indiana’s Utility Consumer Counselor.

Actually, figures for 2014 show that 76.6 percent of Indiana’s

electricity is made from coal, while natural gas accounts for just 7.5 percent.

There are 24 coal fired power plants now serving Indiana residents, and just 12 gas fired plants.

Construction on the site actually began about a month ago. Officials say they could not help but take advantage of the mild winter weather.

“The agreement we have with the owners of this project is to do everything in our power to hire a local workforce, has created opportunities in our apprenticeship programs,” said James Gardner with the St. Joe Valley Building Construction Trades. “We encourage individuals to come down to the various union hiring halls and apply.”

“It's a great day,” said St. Joseph County Commissioner Andy Kostielney. “It’s not often that we get to talk about a half billion dollars of economic development in St. Joseph county, it’s just it's a great day.”

The schedule calls for phase one of the project to be completed sometime in 2018.

Ladd says the power will be sent to the grid and sold on the open market.