Tenaska Gas-Fired Plant Comes Online in Pennsylvania

The Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station began commercial operation on Dec. 21, the latest natural gas-fired facility to enter the PJM market.

The 940-MW Tenaska plant, located near Smithton in South Huntingdon Township in Westmoreland County in southwest Pennsylvania, was built in just more than two years, though its planning and permitting process took several years due to opposition from local residents.

The plant is part of a move toward more gas-fired power in PJM, the largest competitive wholesale U.S. power market. PJM serves customers in 13 states in the eastern U.S., and the District of Columbia.

Gas-fired power surpassed coal-fired generation as the fuel of choice in PJM in 2015, as the price of natural gas dropped below the cost of coal across the region. According to a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “The monthly average cost of Central Appalachian coal in the PJM region averaged $2.76 per million British thermal unit (MMBtu) in 2013 and has only slightly increased since then, most recently averaging 3.30/MMBtu in 2017.”

The Tenaska Westmoreland facility is a natural gas-fired plant in Pennsylvania. Courtesy: Tenaska

The EIA report continued: “In contrast, the monthly average price of natural gas at the Texas Eastern Transmission Market Zone 3 (TETCO M-3) hub, which generally reflects natural gas prices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, fell below the price of coal on a dollar-per-MMBtu basis in mid-2014 and, with the exception of winter price spikes, has remained lower than the price of coal since then.”

Ownership Group

Tenaska Westmoreland is owned by Tenaska Pennsylvania Partners, a group that includes affiliates of Tenaska, based in Omaha, Nebraska; Diamond Generating Corporation (DGC), a Los Angeles, California-based subsidiary of Mitsubishi; and Schaumburg, Illinois-based J-POWER USA Investment Co. DGC earlier this year made news with its proposed $1.5 billion power plant in New Jersey that would send electricity to New York City.

“Tenaska Westmoreland is a highly efficient generating facility that is well suited to meet the needs of the PJM market,” said Jerry Crouse, Tenaska CEO and vice chairman, in a statement. “We are excited to have this plant join our operating fleet, and we look forward to Tenaska Westmoreland being a reliable power producer for decades to come.”

“DGC is pleased that this important, state-of-the-art project is now online and beginning to provide reliable electricity to the PJM market. This is a valuable generating asset for the region,” said Yuji Okafuji, president of DGC.

Mark Condon, president and CEO of J-POWER USA, said, “This facility is a good fit for our North American power generation business. We are pleased to see it achieve commercial operation in time for the winter season, when power demand tends to trend higher.”

The Pennsylvania plant is the 17th power project brought online by Tenaska. The company’s fleet includes 11 natural gas-fueled and renewable power plants, with a combined generation capacity of about 8,000 MW. Tenaska in November signed a deal with Capital Dynamics, a Switzerland-based private asset manager, to develop as many as 14 greenfield solar projects in the Midwest, representing about 2,000 MW of generation capacity in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) market. The projects, in the MISO North interconnection queue, are located in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

Mitsubishi Gas Turbines

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems supplied the two gas-fired turbines at the Westmoreland plant. Black & Veatch was the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the project, which broke ground in 2016.

“The successful completion of this project is a direct result of collaboration and teamwork,” said Vasu Pinapati, Tenaska vice president of engineering and construction, in a statement. “There were a number of internal Tenaska teams—from our engineering, environmental, operations and asset management personnel to our marketing affiliates, to name just a few—who have contributed to Tenaska Westmoreland. Further, our relationships with Black & Veatch, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, Siemens, Nooter/Eriksen and our other contractors and their focused approach to project completion helped to ensure the plant would be operational in 2018.”

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).