Panda Plant still on schedule in Sherman

The fact that Panda Energy this past week announced it had landed financing for a 758-megawatt facility in Temple, between Waco and Austin, seemed to make some people in Sherman nervous about the status of the company’s planned 500-megawatt natural gas-fueled power plant to be built here in Progress Industrial Park.

Sherman Economic Development Corporation chief Scott Connell said Friday, there is no need for worry. Bechtel Construction, out of South Texas, is already on the ground in Sherman, clearing land for the project.

Connell said the projects in Temple and Sherman have never been seen as competitors in any way. In fact, he said, they complement each other. Financing was completed first on the project in Temple, he said, adding that an announcement about the Sherman plant is probably a month or so away.

The Temple project is expected to create around 800 construction jobs and more than two dozen permanent jobs once the plant is completed. Panda is expected to be operating the plant by late 2014. The economic impact on the area is expected to top $500 million within the next 10 years.

The Panda Energy web site projects a $248 million impact on the Sherman area within the first 10 years of the local plant’s construction. Up to 400 construction jobs are expected to be created, and the City of Sherman has projected a potential of $600,000 a year in water sales to cool the plant’s machinery and to create steam to run the turbines there.

The air quality permit for the Sherman plant was issued in February 2010. When completed, the plant is expected to supply enough electricity to power 450,000 homes. The most recent announcement from SEDCO concerning the plant came last month when Connell announced the sale of the 200-acre site for the plant at Progress Industrial Park was completed.

Panda Energy was founded in 1982 and has home offices in Dallas. On the company website, it is noted that Panda “has developed, financed, constructed and operated large-scale energy facilities both domestically and internationally … In 2005, Newsweek magazine recognized the company as one of the 10 most eco-friendly energy companies in the United States.”

In the Temple announcement and in previous information provided on the projected Sherman plant, Panda has said the facilities will be among “the cleanest power plants in the United States.”