New Albany, Fulton and Caledonia will be sites of Enron facilities worth a $215 million investment when North America`s largest marketer of wholesale electricity puts in three natural gas plants.
Enron is one of the largest natural gas delivery companies in the world. Publicly traded, with assets of $28 billion and 1997 fiscal year revenues of $15 billion, Enron`s new facilities in Mississippi will be financed in-house. Enron operates more than 40,000 miles of natural gas pipeline.
The $70-million, 390-megawatt electrical generation facility in New Albany is located on 15 acres. Walter Johnson, mayor of New Albany, said when the project is complete, there will be about ten permanent operations jobs at the plant. Enron places an emphasis on employing local workers, he said.
“It`s a new venture for us and we`re delighted they selected our community,” Johnson said. “The schools are going to benefit tremendously immediately.”
The $45-million, 260-megawatt facility in Fulton is located on 15 acres along the Tenn-Tom waterway with a five-year option to purchase 10 adjacent acres.
Enron`s facilities in New Albany and Fulton were exempted from all ad valorem taxes for the first 10 years, except those reserved for schools.
In Itawamba County, total taxation is estimated at almost $7 million over a 25-year period, said Fulton Mayor Charlie McCarthy. “It will probably run more than that,” he said.
The $100-million, 475-megawatt facility in Caledonia will be positioned adjacent to the town`s TVA substation. Because of the size of the investment, different tax incentives apply.
Enron schedules an additional power plant for construction in Brownsville, Tenn.
Fueled by natural gas, each power plant will operate independently and will sell to Enron`s marketing subsidiary, which in turn will sell to the wholesale electricity market.
If TVA or Tombigbee Power Company is unable to supply electricity at peak times, Enron`s facility can be used to boost their power supply for the area, McCarthy said.
Scheduled to begin operations next June, each facility will operate primarily in the summer months, or during “peak demand.”
Enron`s initial offerings may be just the tip of the iceberg, said Tim Weston, executive director of the Itawamba County Development Council and the Itawamba County Port Commission.
“There`s a good opportunity that Enron is looking at these plants in Mississippi as being phase one of a larger investment,” Weston said. “In addition to having the economic benefits and a company with the international scope of Enron in our communities, having plants able to produce power bodes well for Mississippi.”
“After two years of meetings with Enron officials, it became obvious they were seeking to make a bigger presence in Mississippi,” Weston said. “But Fulton was the first of the four projects considered.”
City officials in Fulton had been working on a power plant project since the early 1990s.
“Community leaders in Itawamba County and throughout north and northeast Mississippi realized that, as deregulation was discussed, there were no power generation capabilities anywhere close to us in Mississippi. We were importing all of our power, and the worst-case scenario left us vulnerable and dependent on other states.”
Because the projects will not employ several hundred workers, high-investment projects “maybe don`t get the big splash,” Weston said. “The schools will fare well as additional revenues for education in Union, Lowndes and Itawamba counties. That will count when our schools need new facilities and upgrades.”