WILLOW ISLAND - State and local officials and construction workers withstood the broiling heat Thursday as ground was broken on American Municipal Power's Willow Island hydroelectric plant.
About 150 people, including Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, AMP board members and company officials, attended the groundbreaking for the $276 million plant.
Tomblin said the new plant holds much promise for an energy state like West Virginia.
State and local officials and construction workers withstood the broiling heat Thursday as ground wa
"Projects like this will secure our future as an energy leader," he said.
AMP spokesman Kent Carson said Willow Island was selected after reviewing lock and dam sites along the entire length of the Ohio River.
Pleasants County Commissioner Jay Powell said the area is "blessed to have it."
Photos by Jody Murphy
Officials shovel earth to commemorate the $276 million plant’s groundbreaking. Construction started about a month ago and the plant should be online in 2015, producing 35 megawatts of clean energy.
The skeleton of a plant’s water tower. In the background are the smoking towers of the coal-fired Willow Island Power Station.
"It's great for local construction," he said.
Officials said the plant's construction, which has already started, will create about 400 jobs. Once the plant is online it will have only seven to nine full-time employees.
Lt. Col. Andy Ford with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the plant is expected to be online in 2015.
Carson said hydroelectric plant's lack of need in terms of manpower and resources is a tremendous upside.
Once the plant's construction is paid off, the cost of manpower to run the plant is minimal and the run-of-the-river water flow is continuous and free, allowing AMP members to maintain lower power costs for its members.
The plant will add 35 megawatts of renewable energy, benefiting 79 AMP communities in Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky, including New Martinsville and Philippi, the only two municipalities in the state that maintain their own electric utilities.
The plant, built alongside the Willow Island Locks and Dam, is in the shadow of the coal-fired Willow Island power station.
Hydroelectric plants have no emissions, AMP President/CEO Marc Gerken said.
"No risks in the unpredictable regulatory environment," he said, referring to the recent federal mandates and crackdowns on coal-fired stations and its emissions.
Tomblin said the country's need for energy will not slow.
He described the hydroelectric plant as "long-established, reliable and a renewable energy-generating source."
"Willow Island will continue to grow in importance," he said. "With limited environmental disturbance."
Powell said county officials are still negotiating with AMP on a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes figures.
The Belleville hydroelectric plant, of which AMP is part owner, pays Wood County $839,975 annually, according to Wood County Assessor Rich Shaffer.
Pleasants County has an annual budget of about $3 million.