AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Lower Colorado River Authority is planning to build a new peaker power plant in Central Texas that it said will support the Texas electric grid when needed.
According to the LCRA, the plant will be able to provide an additional 190 megawatts of dispatchable power to the grid. The plant is expected to be operational in 2025.
A peaker plant is one that typically is used for brief periods during times when the demand for power “approaches or surpasses the amount of power available,” LCRA said in a press release.
As dispatchable power, the plant will be available to grid operators to call upon when renewable and other thermal generation are not sufficient to meet the state’s demand for electricity. During the winter storm in February 2021, equipment issues caused power plant failures which reduced the supply and led to blackouts as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas required power providers to shut off power to balance the load.
LCRA said the new plant will be able to ramp up and shut down in minutes.
The new plant will include 10 high-efficiency Wärtsilä reciprocating engines. Each engine can provide about 19 megawatts of power, it said. One megawatt can power about 200 homes during periods of peak demand, according to ERCOT.
The new plant will be LCRA’s second peaker plant. The first is a 184-megawatt natural gas-fired facility in Fayette County that was built in 2010.
Potential environmental impact
LCRA did not say in the press release what will fuel the energy this plant will produce, but the other peaker plant, the Winchester Power Park, is fueled by natural gas.
According to LCRA’s website, that plant produces power through four turbines, which are “jet engines and can power up to full capacity in about 10 minutes,” the description reads.
Though natural gas releases fewer emissions than other fossil fuels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, some entities have worked to move away from using it as a main fuel source as it’s not renewable energy. President Biden set a goal of a carbon-pollution-free energy sector by 2035.
Recently, the nation’s largest public utility, located in Tennessee, made plans to build a new natural gas plant and received backlash from the Environmental Protection Agency, in part because the project is at odds with Biden’s clean energy goals, the Associated Press reported.
LCRA hasn’t released information about the environmental impact of this plant, but the authority’s website said it operates electric facilities “efficiently and in an environmentally responsible manner, and has committed millions of dollars to further improve emissions of its power plants.”