Panda commissions 829-MW Liberty plant in Pennsylvania

Officials from across Pennsylvania joined Panda Power Funds on Oct. 27 in commissioning the 829-MW Panda Liberty combined-cycle facility in Bradford County, Pennsylvania.

The commissioning of the state-of-the-art plant is part of a national trend away from coal-fired to natural gas-fueled generation, said Panda. The discovery of massive deposits of natural gas in shale basins — such as the local Marcellus — has driven down the price, and price volatility, of natural gas. At the same time, the implementation of strict air emission standards has driven up the cost of environmental compliance for coal-fired generation.

Todd Carter, senior partner and chief executive officer of Panda Power Funds, encouraged those in attendance to continue to responsibly develop the region’s shale gas deposits. “Few things are as important in a dangerous and uncertain world than having a reliable supply of domestically produced, clean and affordable energy,” stated Carter. “Bradford County isn’t just supplying natural gas, or electricity, to the marketplace — but energy security to the nation.”

Besides low air emissions, unlike approximately 95% of the nation’s generating facilities, the plant is cooled with air rather than water. As a result, the Panda Liberty plant does not draw water from, or discharge water into, the Susquehanna River — eliminating potential impacts to species in the Susquehanna watershed. Special blade designs, low-output motors and building enclosures were also used to help minimize sound.

The Liberty plant also utilizes Siemens H-class gas turbines — the world’s first generation technology designed to achieve operating efficiencies of 60%. Liberty is the first plant in the United States to use Siemens’ H-Class gas turbines in a very efficient single shaft configuration.

According to an economic impact study conducted by Impact Data Source of Austin, Texas, the Panda Liberty plant will contribute an estimated $5.97 billion to the area’s economy in the now-past construction phase and the facility’s first 10 years of operation. More than 1,000 jobs were created to construct the Liberty power plant with approximately 650 at peak construction. Twenty-seven full-time employees currently operate the facility, and forty-five indirect jobs are expected to be created within the community to support the plant during operations.

Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Ares Capital, MUFG Union Bank and Investec arranged the senior debt financing for the plant. The transaction marked the fourth financing of a large-scale power facility by Panda Power Funds in 13 months and the first investment of Panda Fund II. The fund supplied equity for the Liberty project along with a large institutional co-investor.

Gemma-Lane Liberty Partners served as the project EPC Contractor and Siemens Energy Inc. provided the power island package including the natural gas turbines, steam turbine and waste heat recovery boilers. Construction began in August 2013 and took approximately 32 months.

Panda Power Funds has also built a “sister” facility, the 829-MW Patriot combined-cycle plant outside of Williamsport, Pa., which entered commercial service approximately two months after the Liberty plant. Panda is also building the 1,124 MW Hummel Station in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, which is one of the largest coal to natural gas power replacement projects in the country.

Gemma Power Systems LLC (GPS) said in its own Oct. 27 statement that the Panda Liberty plant was completed in June. Gemma Power Systems, through a joint venture with The Lane Construction Corp., was the EPC contractor for the project.

“It’s a very special day when we celebrate the completion of a state-of-the-art energy facility and the benefits it brings to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said William F. Griffin, Jr., GPS Chief Executive Officer. “On behalf of the men and women of Gemma Power Systems, we congratulate Panda Power on this achievement.”

Gemma Power Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Argan Inc. (NYSE: AGX), is a leading EPC company. Its wide-ranging and comprehensive experience comprises 14,000 MW under contract and installed capacity including combined cycle and simple cycle gas turbine generating plants, biomass, solar facilities, wind farms, biofuel plants and environmental facilities.

Founded in 2010, Panda Power Funds is a private equity firm headquartered in Dallas, Texas, that develops, owns, operates and manages investments in clean energy. Panda has five combined-cycle power plants in operation in Texas and Pennsylvania, and two combined-cycle power plants currently under construction in Pennsylvania and Virginia with a combined capacity of more than 5,800 MW. Panda Power Funds also has a 990-MW project in Maryland in advanced development.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.