Breaking ground: Work begins on new power plant

Published 4:02 am Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Stating that “good things come to those who wait,” Calpine representatives and local government officials gathered Tuesday morning for the groundbreaking ceremony on a $260-million, 360-megawatt plant to be built in Washington Parish.

The Washington Parish Energy Center will be constructed just west of Bogalusa on the site of a generation project that Calpine Corporation, of Houston, Texas, put on permanent hold in 2006. Calpine will demolish the un-needed remnants of that project, and will build a brand-new natural gas-fired peaking unit, which will consist of two combustion turbines. Calpine will then sell the finished plant to Entergy Louisiana.

Peaking units run to “fill the gap,” when customer demand for electricity reaches a level about what base-load and other generating units can produce.

“The project has been under various stages of development for a very long time,” said Charlie Gates, executive vice president of power operations for Calpine. “But as they say, good things come to those who wait.”

Numerous local, state and national officials spoke during Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony. They included State Rep. Malinda White, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, Parish President Richard “Ned” Thomas, Parish Assessor Jimbo Stevenson, Parish Sheriff Randy Seal and Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette.

Eric Skrmetta, who serves on the Louisiana Public Service Commission for District 1, also addressed the project and its immediate and future impacts for Washington Parish.

“This is a tremendous day for Washington Parish, for this region, and for Louisiana,” Skrmetta said.

Also speaking during Tuesday’s ceremony were Louisiana Economic Development Deputy Secretary Brad Lambert; Brett Kerr, director of communications, government and regulatory affairs for Calpine; and Lynette Sharp, legislative assistant for State Sen. Beth Mizell. Sharp read a statement from Mizell celebrating the project, as the state senator had a prior engagement in Baton Rouge and could not attend in person.

Phillip May, president and CEO of Entergy Louisiana, said that the power plant will allow the company to continue offering competitive energy rates to its customers in Louisiana.

“This is a great project for our customers and a great project for this community,” May said. “It will help us meet the energy needs of both today, and the future.”

May said that the Washington Parish Energy Center is one of several projects Entergy is undertaking across the state, to replace lower-efficiency and older plants with more economically friendly and state-of-the-art facilities.

The demolition project and subsequent new construction is expected to take about three years. During construction, there will be more than 300 workers on the project, and it is expected to employ 25-35 workers once open and purchased by Entergy.

Kerr said that the power plant is a win-win for all parties involved.

“This is something that had to work for the parish, had to work for the rate payers, and had to work for Entergy,” he said. “It took some time, but it got done.”