Sullivan County officials Wednesday took an early step toward the development of a proposed $700 million natural- gas electric-generation facility. The Sullivan County Redevelopment Commission approved an economic revitalization area for Maple Creek Energy, a subsidiary of Advanced Power NA, which is a subsidiary of Advanced Power AG, a Switzerland- based company.

Maple Creek Energy told county officials it is proposing a 600-megawatt electric generating facility fueled by natural gas that could power 600,000 homes. The facility would be on less than 25 acres set back about 1,250 feet from Indiana 63 on a 170-acre parcel in Fairbanks Township, according to a fact sheet on the company’s web site — www.

Brian Hazelrigg, president of the Sullivan County Redevelopment Commission, said the company still has easements to be obtained, but it proposes to tap into an existing 30-inch main gas line, using a 7 or 8-inch gas line into the facility.

The Redevelopment Commission action will also likely allow the area to be designated as a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district.

“Generally, in cases like this we will make it a TIF area,” Hazelrigg said. “We would vote on the TIF district separate. We will probably make it a TIF district,” he said.

TIF status would enable taxes paid from the company to be captured and reinvested into improvements such as potential water lines. Additionally, Hazelrigg said, it would enable the company to seek a future tax abatement, which would have to be approved by the Sullivan County Council.

A company official told the commission the project would create 19 to 20 fulltime jobs locally, with engineering, management and operations personnel to be hired. The project would create up 550 construction jobs, with construction taking 2-1/2 years. The project could start in 2024 and open in 2026. Sullivan County Commissioner John Waterman said he supports the project.

“It would be excellent. You can cover the whole state of Indiana with solar panels and it would not provide enough energy,” Waterman said, adding

he thinks “there is no way we can get away from fossil fuels. This facility would heat water with natural gas and use a steam turbine” to produce electricity, he said.

“It looks like a good project and I hope it lands here,” Waterman said. “We [commissioners] still have to give approval and it would probably come to us in a couple of months.” Olivia Rivera, spokeswoman for the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, said Thursday the project has not yet been filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

“It is likely it is still at the local approvals level,” Rivera said. “This facility would operate as a wholesale power sales, so the IURC and [IUCC] would review this once a case is filed.”