CARSON CITY — What could a possible expansion at Renaissance Power mean for the residents of Carson City?
How about 18 permanent full-time jobs, nearly 400 construction jobs and an increase in the city’s tax revenue by double?
If a recent proposal made by plant owner LS Power comes to fruition, that is exactly what residents of the city can expect.
During the Oct. 15 Carson City Council meeting, LS Power project managers Bradley Cooley and Adam Gassaway traveled from St. Louis, Mo., to present council members with a proposal to expand the Renaissance Power plant in the future.
According to Cooley, no plans have been set other than applying for an air permit application with the state of Michigan, which the company did last February. Cooley said he is hopeful they will receive approval of the air permit before the end of this year.
“This is a proposed project and not definite at this point,” Cooley said. “The project is being considered to meet future regional power system needs.”
LS Power has constructed or acquired 26 total power plants throughout the United States, but is currently looking at only two of them for possible upgrades.
If the expansion at the Carson City plant were approved, it would double the capacity of the plant from 700 MW to 1,400 MW, a significant capital investment that would likely create additional jobs and raise the tax base.
Carson City Administrator Mark Borden said he is excited at the prospect of an expansion at the facility, but said he is keeping things in perspective, knowing that the expansion is no guarantee.
“I don’t want to over-speak, but this could be potentially huge for Carson City,” Borden said. “But we don’t want to get excited about it just yet. We want to help them get the nod from the state to go ahead with the project here. The whole permitting process is probably going to take at least a year.”
Borden said one of the biggest variables is the possibility of a new plant being built in Flint by Consumers Energy, which would eliminate the need for an expansion at the Carson City plant.
“If the plant is built in Flint, then this one probably wont go into expansion,” he said. “But if they do expand, it will be hundreds of millions of dollars of an investment. It would take them from seven full-time employees to 25 and create 350 to 400 construction worker jobs for a year and a half to two years to do the work.”
Borden said the expansion would greatly increase the city’s tax revenues as well.
“I don’t have the exact tax numbers, but it would probably double our tax revenue,” he said. “Our general budget is right at $600,000 a year, but it would increase tax revenue several hundred thousand dollars a year.”
Borden said that increase could directly benefit residents through a variety of different city improvements.
“Financially it would really help Carson City. We’re excited,” he said. “But this is only a proposal. Nothing is definite at this point.”
Borden said the greater return in tax revenue could lead to “bigger and better” city services, such as more police and fire coverage or improving the city’s streets.
“We could always look at potentially lowering the taxes for homeowners as well,” he said.
According to Cooley, analysts have begun to see an increase in energy demand across the region with an expectation for usage to peak in either 2016 or 2017.
With coal being replaced as a fuel nationally, Cooley said an expansion at the clean Carson City plant, which is fueled by natural gas, would be a great benefit to residents throughout the state.
“We are proposing to convert the existing simple cycle gas turbines to combined cycle facilities,” he said. “This means that the exhaust heat from the existing natural gas turbines would be utilized to generate steam that can be utilized in a steam turbine to produce additional power, increase efficiency, and make the plant more economical to operate. The project would require the addition of heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs), steam turbine, cooling tower, and other supporting equipment.”
Cooley said if the project were to come to fruition, it would bring significant capital expenditures to the area creating jobs and economic development.
“Carson City was chosen because of its location in relation to the power grid and natural gas pipelines and because the existing facility is designed in a manner that allows for expansion in an economic and efficient manner,” he said.
Borden said questions that were raised during the presentation focused on possible complaints about noise being produced at the plant after possible improvements.
“If they go through with this, we’re talking about 210 ft. tall towers to abate the noise,” he said. “The noise would probably be less than it is now, even though they would be producing power more often.”
Borden said LS Power would be changing their current permit from producing power “as needed or on demand” to “regular producer,” though not full time, if the expansion is approved.