PGE, with the aid of Business Oregon incentives, set to build natural gas-fired plant

Portland General Electric announced it will begin construction on a 220-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant this summer at Port Westward near Clatskanie.

The project, referred to as Port Westward Unit 2, will be built near PGE’s two existing natural gas-fired plants at Port Westward and is expected to create approximately 200 construction jobs, according to PGE.

Once operational, however, it will likely provide only two permanent jobs, said PGE spokesman Steve Corson.

But, according to Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde, the new plant will benefit the county in other ways.

He met with NW Natural Feb. 4 and found that they will have to upgrade their system in order to handle the gas flowing to the new plant, opening up the possibility for more construction jobs connected to the PGE plant.

“The bulk of our citizens are in the trade industries,” Hyde said.

He said PGE’s Jan. 30 announcement was the second piece of good news the county received that week. Earlier, fuel distributor Global Partners announced it would be purchasing the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery ethanol plant at Port Westward.

Both operations will greatly expand the tax roll for the county, with the new PGE plant alone adding $400 to $450 million in tax value, Hyde said.

There had been some fear a New York-based company competing against PGE for the power supply rights through the Oregon Public Utilities Commission would subvert PGE’s plans to expand at Port Westward, Hyde said. Now those fears have been put to rest.

The plant will cost $285 million to $310 million and is expected to be completed by 2015. Kansas-based Black & Veatch will build the plant. The plant is being developed thanks in part to over $15 million in tax credits PGE received from Oregon’s Business Development Commission. PGE will be partially exempt from paying property taxes on the plant for 15 years.

PGE President and CEO Jim Piro said the new plant will enable the PGE to react to changes in power output from renewable energy facilities such as wind or solar farms.

“It will also serve as a ‘peaking’ resourc during periods of high demand, helping maintain system reliability,” he said in a prepared statement.

PGE customers will likely experience increased rates when the plant is completed and operational, but these rates will be lower than they would be if the plant was not built, Corson said.

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