ASYLUM TOWNSHIP - Panda Power Funds announced Thursday that it has completed the acquisition and financing of Moxie Energy's planned 829 megawatt power plant in Asylum Township.

Construction of the natural gas-fueled plant, which will be able to supply the power needs of up to 1 million homes in Pennsylvania, will begin "immediately," according to a press release issued on Thursday by Panda Power Funds.

While Panda Power Funds will be the majority owner of the power plant, Moxie Energy will retain a minority ownership of the facility, said Kent J. Morton, vice-president of Moxie Energy LLC.

Moxie Energy partnered with Panda Power, which is a private equity firm in Dallas, Texas, because Panda could provide financing for the project, Morton said.

Through the partnership, the project was able to be financed more quickly and easily, Morton said.

In addition, the projects that Panda is doing are in line with Moxie Energy's plans, he said.

Panda has developed three natural gas-fueled power plants in Texas, which are now under construction, Morton said.

"We are very excited about this project," said Bill Pentak, a spokesman for Panda.

The name of the planned power plant in Asylum Township has been changed from the Moxie Energy Liberty plant to the Panda Liberty power plant, Pentak said.

The Panda Liberty plant will serve the PJM electric grid, where a number of coal-fired power plants are scheduled to be retired, he said.

In addition, there is a significant number of aging power plants - with average age of 56 years - that serve the PJM grid, he said.

When completed, the Panda Liberty project will be the first new power plant in the Commonwealth specifically developed to take advantage of its proximity to the Marcellus Shale gas formation, the release said.

The plant will be constructed on a 33-acre site off state Route 187, Morton said.

Panda expects commercial operations to begin by early 2016, the release said.

Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and Ares Capital arranged the senior debt financing for the plant, the release said. Union Bank was the documentation agent. The transaction marks 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 is supplying equity for the Liberty project along with a large institutional co-investor.

"Following three successful financings in Texas, it didn't get any easier," said Todd W. Carter, president and senior partner of Panda Power Funds. "I'm really proud of our team for getting this job done in a 'tough-as-nails' financial market.

"I'm also very pleased we landed the Liberty project. After looking at a number of opportunities in PJM, we were impressed with the project and the caliber of work done by Moxie Energy," he said.

"We found a good dance partner in Panda," added Aaron Samson, chief executive officer of Moxie Energy. "They care about the quality of the project and its environmental friendliness, and are committed to being a good corporate citizen of the community."

The Panda Liberty project has been strategically sited in the PJM Interconnection, which is considered one of the most attractive and liquid markets for power generators in the United States, the release said.

The Panda Liberty plant will utilize Siemens H-class gas turbines - the world's first generation technology to achieve operating efficiencies of 60 percent, the release said. The two single shaft power trains will make the Panda Liberty plant one of the cleanest, most efficient natural gas-fueled power plants in the United States, the release said.

In addition, unlike approximately 95 percent of the nation's generating facilities, the plant will be cooled with air rather than water. As a result, the Liberty plant will 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 will also be used to minimize sound, the release said.

According to recent estimates, the plant will contribute an estimated $1.2 billion to the area's economy during construction and the facility's first 10 years of operation. Approximately 500 jobs will be created to construct the Liberty power plant at peak construction. During operations, the generating station will create an estimated 27 skilled jobs to operate the facility and 45 indirect jobs within the community to support the plant.

Gemma-Lane Liberty Partners will serve as the project EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction) Contractor and Siemens Energy Inc. will provide the power island package including the natural gas turbines, steam turbine and waste heat recovery boilers. Gemma-Lane Liberty Partners will be responsible for installing the power island equipment and for the engineering, procurement and installation of the balance of the plant, and the commissioning of the facility. Construction will take approximately 30 months.

Founded in 2010, Panda Power Funds is a private equity firm headquartered in Dallas, Texas, which has the ability to develop, acquire, construct, finance and operate large-scale, natural gas-fueled power generation facilities. Panda's first fund invested in three combined-cycle power plants currently under construction in Temple and Sherman, Texas (totaling 2,274 megawatts) and a 20-megawatt solar project in operation in Pilesgrove, New Jersey. Additional information on Panda Power Funds can be found at www.pandafunds.com.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.