BELMONT – Community and business leaders got a look at the workings of a local power provider on Wednesday.
More than 30 members of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley toured the Pleasants Power Station at Belmont.
With coal-fired power plants and the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules over them, the tour was the idea of different chamber members, including representatives of First Energy, who wanted a chance to see the plant and what it does.
“The tour is a unique opportunity for one chamber member, First Energy, to share what they do with other chamber members,” Chamber President Jill Parsons said. “Inviting fellow Chamber members to see the facility allows First Energy to showcase its investment in the community as both an employer and utility provider.”
Members toured the control room, the turbine room and other locations around the site. They asked questions about power generation, workforce needs, operations, the possible impact of new EPA rules, among others.
The plant, which employs around 190 people, operates two 650-megawatt coal-fired units which produce 1,300 MW of electricity. At full capacity, the plant’s generating units can produce more than 31 million kilowatt-hours of electricity daily and uses more than 3.4 million tons of coal annually.
Around 57 percent of the company’s energy generation portfolio comes from coal, said Greg Hefner, manager for external affairs for First Energy and who serves on the Chamber’s government relations committee.
“We are committed to a clean environment,” he said. “We have been very proactive over the years in reducing emissions.”
Coal has been under fire by the federal government and officials from the plant wanted to show the community what they are about, Hefner said.
“Over the last several months we have talked about different activities the group could do,” he said. “One of the things that was mentioned was to tour the Pleasants Power Station, because the EPA has been prominent in the news. The group thought it would be a good idea to come out and look at the facility and learn more about what goes on here.”
First Energy also wanted to highlight the steps they have taken to help ensure the environment is clean.
“We spent $10 billion on emission controls since 1970,” Hefner said. “We are proud of that and we are proud of this station. We thought it would be a good idea for some of the folks from the Chamber to come out because they were interested in doing so.”
The plant has invested nearly $650 million on its environmental-control systems, company officials said.
The station is equipped with massive scrubber modules located between the boils and the 640-foot chimney, they said adding this system removes 98 percent of the sulfur-dioxide emissions.
It is also equipped with Selective Catalytic Reduction systems for removal of nitrogen oxides from the flue gases, company officials said. The system transforms nitrogen oxides into nitrogen, which becomes part of the ambient air and water, they said adding these systems remove at least 90 percent of nitrogen oxide in the coal burned.
First Energy is continually engaged in the communities where it operates as its employees live in these communities as well, Hefner said.
“We are very engaged in the community,” he said. “We want to see the communities we are in prosper. We want to be good corporate neighbors. We want to see what we can do to help facilitate growth in our communities and make them a better place to live, work and play.”
Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp was one of the chamber representatives to take the tour. It was a good opportunity to see how a power plant operates, he said.
“I was very impressed with just how clean it was,” he said.
Rapp also toured the plant’s water treatment facility. The plants takes in water from the Ohio River, uses it in their processes, then cleans it and puts it back in the river.
“The water is cleaner when they put it back in than when they first took it out,” Rapp said.
If people knew and understood how these kind of facilities work with the scrubbers and other environmental measures in place, there may not be the outcry about pollution some people have.
“I was just impressed with how clean it was,” he said.
Parsons said the tour was a great opportunity for First Energy to share their investment in the community with other chamber members.
“We have a diverse group here,” she said. “There is education, real estate, hotels, small businesses and others here. For them to come in and see the facility here that powers our homes is a great opportunity.”