Jefferson Township supervisors approve conditional use application for power company

Karen Mansfield
Observer Reporter

Jefferson Township supervisors on Wednesday approved a conditional use application from Robinson Power Co. for construction of electric transmission lines and an electric transmission switching station to transport energy from a power plant planned in a neighboring Washington County community.

The construction project is part of a proposed 1,000mW natural gas-fired power plant slated for Robinson Township. Construction of the Beech Hollow power plant is expected to begin in 2019, said Jefferson Township Supervisor Chris Lawrence.

During a public hearing, representatives for the power company outlined plans for the transmission lines and switching station project, which is estimated to cost about $28 million and is scheduled to begin construction in spring 2021.

The project should be completed 1 ½ years after construction begins.

Thomas Graves of Burns & McDonnell, which is overseeing design and construction of the proposed power plant, said the operation will traverse four municipalities, including Jefferson Township.

The switching station will be built on 8.6 acres in an agricultural area of Jefferson Township, and about 10 to 12 structures between 90 and 170 feet tall that bear the weight of the lines will be erected in the township.

Construction will be scheduled for five days a week, 10 hours a day, unless weather or other factors cause delays.

When construction of the switchyard is completed, it will be conveyed to First Energy, who will own and operate it, Graves said.

When one resident asked why the power plant was being built, Graves said, “The grid as a whole is converting from predominantly coal-fired generation to natural gas-fired generation. Washington County, being the heart of Marcellus Shale formation, is actually the epicenter for replacement of coal-fired generation. Existing coal-fired power plants cannot economically compete with gas-fired generation on the market and are being retired at increasingly fast rates.”

Tenaska recently constructed a gas-fired power plant in South Huntingdon Township, near Smithton, in Westmoreland County, which went online in late December.