Power plant expected next summer

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 22, 2000

Planning began in January, the project was announced in February, ground was officially broken Thursday and a new peak-generation power plant for Entergy Wholesale Operations will go on line in Vicksburg in the summer of 2001.

Officials from Entergy, the electric utility that has operations in four states, and local elected and economic development officials gathered at the site of the new gas-turbine plant adjacent to the Baxter Wilson Steam Electric Plant off Warrenton Road to officially break ground for the $140 million plant. It’s role will be to fire up and make electricity for the wholesale market for electricity during high-demand periods.

Speaking as a pile driver worked, Mike Childers, Entergy senior vice president chief development officer, said the company acted quickly to get the plant off the ground.

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“Mike Suter wandered into my office about the third or fourth week in January,” Childers said, noting that was when he first heard about another generating plant in Vicksburg.

The 300-megawatt plant with four gas-turbine generators was announced to Warren County residents in February. It joins Baxter Wilson and Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, about 25 miles south in Claiborne County, as Entergy generation assets on the Mississippi River.

As the plant was announced, Vicksburg and Warren County elected officials acted to grant Entergy Wholesale Operations, owners of the plant, tax breaks that will save the company $31 million over 10 years. The company will still pay a third of the amount it would normally pay in taxes, but local officials said local taxpayers won’t be losing. Although reduced, the amount Entergy Wholesale will be paying is far above the about $10,000 a year the land it will occupy has generated in tax revenues in the past.

Entergy Wholesale is forbidden by law to sell the output from the new gas turbine plant on the local market, so it will sell the power to other areas.

“We think it’s going to help provide more power to the grid so we’ll have more reliable service to the customers,” said Carolyn Shanks, president of Entergy Mississippi, explaining one of the ways the new plant will benefit the local area by providing the company reliability.

In a talk earlier in the day to local leaders and members of the Warren County Economic Development Foundation, Shanks said the new plant will be important to Mississippi when deregulation of the electric industry comes in a few years. At that time, some, if not all, users of electricity will be able to buy power from whatever source they want similar to the way consumers buy long distance telephone service.

At that time, the new plant’s advantage will be its ability to sit idle during times of low demand. Then when demand peaks, it can be brought on line quickly to fill the need.

The key to this is the 7EA gas turbine generators purchased from GE Power Systems. Since the generators will be powered by what is essentially a jet turbine engine fueled by natural gas, they can be started up quickly, opposed to the long startup time for generators like those at Baxter Wilson that are turned by steam turbines.

Shanks said the new plant will also be much more efficient than older plants and will put out more electricity with less fuel.

Other speakers at the ground breaking and a reception later in the day were Sen. Mike Chaney, Mayor Robert Walker, Board of Supervisors President Richard George, Supervisor David McDonald, South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb and Nielson Cochran, central district member of the Public Service Commission.

In addition to helping the local area with reliable electricity, the new generating plant will bring about 100 people, many of them drawn from the local area, to build the plant, said Gary Martin, vice president for construction for BE&K Construction Co., the Birmingham-based general contractor, as well as supplying work for at least one local firm.

“Hebeler (Vicksburg Corp.) has just told me they have a contract with GE to supply Entergy with one of the turbines,” he said.

Martin also said the company plans to buy as much on the local economy as possible.

Also, Don Maye, Hebeler plant manager, said his company has a contract to build a $72,000 water wash skid that will be used in the plant to clean fuel residue from the compressor and turbine blades. That project will provide work for the 105 people who work at Hebeler’s local operation.

Martin also said BE&K is seeking local companies that are interested in being subcontractors on the project.