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Vidalia partners for future electricity needs

VIDALIA — A partnership with five other Louisiana cities and towns will mean Vidalia has access to more electric power in the years to come.

Vidalia, Morgan City, Houma, Plaquemine, Rayne and Jonesville have partnered to build a $116 million power plant in Morgan City, La., that will improve the reliability and availability of power, Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

“This is a long-term decision; we are looking to the future,” he said. “We are already able to provide reliable energy by maintaining control of our own system. The purpose of this project is to continue providing constant power at a reasonable cost for years to come.”

The cities are part of the Louisiana Energy and Power Authority, a group of 18 cities that maintain ownership of their electricity distribution system.

Vidalia officially joined the power plant effort in May after approving a contract to purchase 10.3 percent — 6.3 megawatts — of the plant’s 64-megawatt capacity each year.

The 6.3 megawatts equals approximately 25 percent of Vidalia’s energy supply.

Vidalia uses approximately 25 megawatts of electricity per year.

LEPA General Manager Cordell Grand said the organization is preparing to close bidding on the Morgan City plant and will begin awarding contracts for construction in October.

The plant will be paid for mostly through bonds, Copeland said.

The power plant will run on a combined-cycle and be fueled by natural gas.

Combined-cycle plants generate energy when exhaust from one engine is used as the heat source for another, Grand said.

“Combined-cycle plants are very efficient,” he said. “What we are creating is the latest and greatest of natural gas technology.”

Grand said Vidalia’s investment in the plant reduces worry about fluctuation in energy prices.

“There are times where it pays off to buy energy from the market, but other times when you may want to have other sources to draw from,” he said.

Vidalia’s available wattage will increase to more than 30 megawatts per year once the plant begins production in 2015, but Copeland said he hopes to see continuous increases in the city’s energy consumption due to growth.

“Within the next five years, I anticipate our energy consumption will increase to about 40 megawatts due to new industries coming in,” he said. “New residential and commercial properties will contribute to that increase. You have to make sure you have ample supply to furnish your market.”