Natural gas power plant proposed for central New Jersey

 The proposed natural gas plant is about 10 miles north of Princeton, NJ.

The proposed natural gas plant is about 10 miles north of Princeton, NJ.

New Jersey may be getting another natural-gas-fired power plant thanks to a project that would be built in Hillsborough Township in Somerset County, if it can obtain the necessary approvals.

The $1 billion project would be big enough to supply power to 700,000 homes during summer months, according to a website on the proposed facility, the Amwell Energy Center. Genesis Power LLC is the developer of the project.

The proposal is the latest natural-gas power plant proposed for New Jersey, which has encouraged their development in recent years under policies adopted by the Christie administration. Four other gas units have been built, planned, or are under construction in West Deptford, Newark, Woodbridge, and Sewaren.

With plentiful supplies of natural gas being extracted in neighboring Pennsylvania and other states, the fuel is growing in use, especially as older coal-fired plants are retired, unable to comply with tougher environmental regulations to curb emissions into the air.

Although cleaner than coal, natural gas is not backed by some environmentalists, who fear the spate of investments in the sector could siphon off money that otherwise might be directed to renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects.

“What we see happening is we are awash in natural-gas electricity,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. The abundance of the gas projects is a consequence of the expansion of natural gas pipelines in the state, he said. At least 15 pipeline projects are under consideration in New Jersey.

 

The Hillsborough project, expected be about 640 megawatts, is situated to take advantage of that boom. Its site is at the intersection of three Texas Eastern interstate gas pipelines, as well as high-voltage electric transmission lines. Having both reduces costly upgrades that would be necessary, but lessen their overall impact on the environment.

The company said the project would generate 800 construction jobs during peak periods, and employ about 30 full-time workers during operation. The company has not applied yet for any permits from state and local agencies with oversight over the project.

Amwell Energy Center, however, recently applied to the state Department of Environmental Protection to determine the location of wetlands on the 423-acre site, along Amwell and Hamilton Roads. The gas project will be located on 10 percent to 15 percent of the larger parcel, according to the website.

This past June, Newark-based PSEG Power acquired a 755-megawatt natural-gas plant from Genesis Power in Prince George County in Maryland. The facility is expected to be operational in 2018.

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NJ Spotlight, an independent online news service on issues critical to New Jersey, makes its in-depth reporting available to NewsWorks.

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