Planned Brooke plant positive

A project in Brooke County that was part of international headlines during President Trump’s visit to China during 2017 has taken a major step forward.

The planned Brooke County Power plant, a natural-gas fired electric generation facility, has received approval of its siting plan by the state.

The Energy Solutions Consortium has a plan for a twin-turbine plant that will generate 830 megawatts, enough electricity to power 700,000 average homes.

West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said in November that the plant is part of an $83.7 billion investment by China Energy in a memorandum of understanding that was signed in the presence of Trump.

The plant has a useful life of about 30 years. Because the area has seen the demolition and demise of coal-fired power plants in recent years, seeing a new plant rise would be a welcomed site.

The siting approval should enable more progress toward construction and the plan to put the plant into service in the early 2020s.

The plant would represent hundreds of construction jobs as well as more permanent employment for about 30 plant operations personnel. The indirect impact of those jobs as money circulates through the local economy could impact hundreds more families in a positive way. The plant’s backers estimate an economic impact of more than $440 million annually.

The plant also is supposed to pay $1 million to Brooke County with the start of construction and annual contributions of $443,000 to Brooke County and $167,000 to the Brooke County Board of Education as payments in lieu of taxes. The impact that can have on local governments should be obvious. Heavy industry, including power plants, has been a big foundation block upon which the area economy has been built for more than a century.

The new plant could be a new version of one of those major building blocks.

Smaller in terms of employment than the old coal plants, yes, but still, fairly permanent and dependable as a source of revenue for a generation or so.