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New power plant could bring lower costs to parish residents

VIDALIA — Louisiana Electric Power Association officials broke ground Thursday on a power plant meant to bring more stable and efficient energy to Vidalia and Jonesville.

The groundbreaking on the $120 million, 64-megawatt natural gas-fired plant signals the start of construction on the first new power plant built in south  Louisiana in more than 40 years.

Six LEPA member cities agreed to participate in the project, including Vidalia and Jonesville.

LEPA is composed of 17 member cities that maintain independent municipal electrical systems, but work together to keep prices low through combined purchasing power.

Vidalia mayor and LEPA chairman Hyram Copeland said Vidalia will have a 10.3 percent participation in the plant, or the equivalent of 6.3 megawatts worth of power, when it is up and running. The Vidalia power systemcurrently uses between 18 and 21 megawatts in its operations.

“We are excited about this because it is a great project for the cities participating,” Copeland said. “The goal of this project is stable prices and stable electricity. We hope we will get a better price as part of the generating plant — it keeps us from having to go to the open grid and having to buy 64 megawatts.”

Copeland said he believes the city will double its power use in the next 10 years as its industrial and retail base grows, and supporting the plant is part of planning for the future.

Copeland said Jonesville’s participation in the plant will be approximately 1.6 percent of its output.

LEPA has worked on the plant project since 2009. The project is backed by bonds taken out by LEPA, and will be repaid with the sale of electricity, Copeland said.

Because the plant will be natural gas-powered, the energy it creates will be cleaner and more efficient than other power-generating sources, LEPA General Manager Cordell Grand said.

“The technology is superior to conventional fossil fueled generating plants because of its higher efficiency, lower environmental impact, lower capital cost and shorter construction time,” Grand said.  “Because the plant is fuel efficient, it will help stabilize the cost of electrical power for these municipalities by minimizing the impact of fluctuations in natural gas rates.”

The plant’s efficiency features include structures to recover waste heat to generate extra power and the utilization of waste water discharged from the Morgan City Waste Water Treatment Plant to conserve treated water.

It will also have an emergency diesel generator so the plant can continue operations without reliance on external sources.