NRG Energy plans to retrofit the 60-year-old New Castle coal-fired electric power plant to run on natural gas, extending its operation beyond the April 2015 closing date announced last year by the previous owner, GenOn Energy Inc.
NRG is in the early stages of design, engineering and the permit process but hopes to have the power plant's switch to natural gas completed by May 2016, according to Dave Gaier, the company's East Region spokesman for the Princeton, N.J.-based power company.
The decision to change the 330 megawatt coal-burning power plant to gas will create 50 to 100 temporary construction jobs and save all 40 current full-time jobs, although there may be some reductions later, Mr. Gaier said.
The New Castle power plant was one of eight coal-fired electric power generating facilities in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey that were slated to be closed by Houston, Texas-based GenOn Energy Inc.
"The New Castle plant shutdown was announced because it would have required a substantial investment in environmental controls to continue to operate as a coal-burning facility," Mr. Gaier said.
"But we looked at it and decided it could be operated economically on natural gas. We won't have to install the extremely expensive controls that would have been required to continue operating on coal."
He said he didn't know how much the coal-to-gas switch would cost. He also said the plant would still be able to burn coal if necessary.
NRG also has plans to add natural-gas capabilities to its Avon Lake, Ohio, coal-burning power plant. The retrofitting of that power plant, which produces 776 megawatts of electricity, will take place during the same time frame as that of the New Castle plant, Mr. Gaier said.
NRG merged with GenOn in December, creating the largest commercial electric power generating company in the U.S., with a power-generating capacity of 47,000 megawatts in the East, Gulf Coast and West and a combined value of $18 billion.