After meeting for several weeks with leaders from Loudoun County and the Town of Leesburg to introduce the concept, proponents of building a power plant south of Leesburg were expected to file a formal application Friday.
The Green Energy Partners/Stonewall LLC, led by veteran Loudoun developers John Andrews and his father Jack Andrews, proposes the $800 million, three-turbine plant would be powered by natural gas fed by two interstate lines and steam created by heating wastewater purchased from the Town of Leesburg's treatment plant.
"It's the greenest way I believe for Loudoun to solve some of its power problems," John Andrews said in an interview Wednesday.
The full-time 600-megawatt power plant, with two 150-megawatt peak-demand generators and a solar array to generate an additional 1 megawatt of power, would be built on a portion of the Ridgewater property, for which plans for a mixed-use town center-style development failed to win support of the previous Board of Supervisors. The developers previously filed a rezoning application to develop a secure business park, a restricted access zone geared to data center and sensitive government and private-sector operations, on the 300-acre tract south of Bolen Park, north of the Dulles Greenway and west of land where Luck Stone plans to expand its quarry operations and Loudoun Water plans a new water storage and treatment facility. The power plant would require a special exception if the business park rezoning is approved.
The site is about a mile south of land where a state-approved peak-hour power plant was approved a decade ago. That facility was never built, facing opposition from area residents and some town and county leaders. Concerns about that plant centered on its requirement to use diesel fuel as a backup source, requiring tall exhaust stacks and large amounts of fuel storage at a location near Goose Creek.
Noting Loudoun is a 100 percent importer of power, Andrews said the plant would eliminate the county's need to rely on others for its electricity and, more importantly, would produce reliable power locally. The issue for the electrical grid has always been congestion in getting the power here.
"We would be generating it here, where it's needed," Andrews said.
The combination of cutting edge technology, today's focus on going green and ownership of a land parcel that already has two interstate natural gas lines running through it, plus a grid of three transmission lines, and proximity to high-demand users, is the catalyst for the new venture.
The hybrid source plant would feature two jet gas-lit engines, with a third steam-driven turbine. Andrews' plan is to buy treated wastewater from the Town of Leesburg with which to make steam. Currently, the town discharges the treated wastewater into the Potomac River. Andrews' plan would provide a new revenue source for the town's utility system, with a 1-cent per 1,000 gallons rate generating about $1 million per year.
"We would be creating power, not dumping it into the Chesapeake Bay," Andrews said.
Not only would the plant solve the two major issues of power surges and reliability, Andrews maintained, but also it could provide approximately $10 million per year in real estate taxes to the county.
Picking up on a theme of opponents to the high voltage transmission lines currently planned for the county, Andrews noted the plant would be the greenest way to provide power and would mean the county would not have to rely on coal-fired electricity transmitted from outside Loudoun. As an added benefit, the property is in the middle of the grid, "where the users are," Andrews said.
When asked to predict the chances of county approval, Andrews, a former chairman of the county's Economic Development Commission and Potomac District School Board member, said he hoped the county government would see it as an economic development resource.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," that provides energy, taxes and jobs, plus the business park, Andrews said. "It could be the largest economic development in the county."
Andrews said he has discussed the plant in concept with several supervisors, including Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) and Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge), both of whom are battling power company plans to erect a major transmission line through their districts. Andrews said he had also discussed the idea with Town of Leesburg administrators, and said most elected representatives had reacted with interest to the general concept, although they wanted more specific information.
When discussing her concerns about the controversial cross-county transmission lines last week, Kurtz pointed to The Green Energy Partners project as an interesting alternative.
The plant's special exception permit application envisions 60 to 80 acres. The plant would not be seen from the Greenway nor would it be noisy, Andrews said, predicting the plant would exceed what would be required in terms of noise abatement.
If all goes well with the permitting process, Andrews said he could start construction in a year or less, with 18 months allowed for construction. "We could be up and operating in three to four years."
With a formal application beginning the public review process, Andrews said he is eager to hear community reaction, noting that residents' participation would be vital to the success of the plant. "We're still continuing to flesh out the details," Andrews said.
"I've grown up here, I live here and have four kids. If I didn't think it would be good for the community, I wouldn't do it," Andrews said.