Developers of a small central Utah power plant hope to break ground on the $100 million project this summer, company officials said.

Executives from Environmental Power Corp. were in Utah this week to update state and local officials on the project and express thanks for helping get the co-generation venture off the ground."We thanked the state and Carbon County because funding came through Industrial Revenue Bonds" issued by the county and approved by the state, said the Boston-based firm's local counsel Fred Finlinson. "It was a good example of the county and state working together to get industry into Utah."

The 45-megawatt plant will employ 300 workers during construction and about 50 people will be hired locally to operate it, Environmental Power's president Joseph E. Cresci said.

Thermal energy produced by the plant, Cresci added, could spawn additional industry for job-starved Carbon County.

The waste coal plant will be the first of its kind in the western United States, the company's regional manager said. But, it's not the first for Environmental Power.

Cresci said his firm has two other waste coal plants under construction in Pennsylvania. Other electrical generation projects the five-year-old company has developed include two plants in Texas, fueled by municipal waste, and a hydropower projects in Vermont.

Environmental Power acquired rights to the project from Kaiser Coal Corp. for $1.25 million. Kaiser initiated the plan to dispose of environmentally hazardous waste coal from its Sunnyside mine, but financial difficulties forced the coal company to sell it.

Kaiser got the cash it needed and at the same time a way to dispose of its waste coal. Environmental Power plans to burn the waste coal in a circulating fluidized generator system built adjacent to Sunnyside mine.

Regional manager Bev Godec said waste coal's impurities are not burned off with the coal, but absorbed by limestone rocks placed in the plant's boilers. He said the circulating fluidized technology has been tested in other parts of the country and meets federal clean air standards.

Environmental Power is still awaiting its operating permit from environmental regulators, and once that is secured construction can begin in about two months, Cresci said.

The company will sell its electricity to Utah Power & Light Co. for 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour, under a 30-year contract approved by Utah's Public Service Commission.

Cresci concedes that the price, set by the PSC for local co-generation projects, is low. But he expects to make money because of the plants low cost fuel and financing.

Other avenues to increase revenues will be the sale of thermal energy and waste products produced by the two 25-megawatt generators, Cresci said. Environmental Power is negotiating sales of the steam produced by the plant to a greenhouse firm and a company with leases to mine tar sands nearby.

The waste coal impurities absorbed by limestone creates gypsum and could be sold as construction backfill, he said.