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ERCOT OKs 306-MW gas plant for power market; 1.1 GW of renewables nearly online


Small additions expected this summer

Luminant reverses course on plant retirement

Developers cancel 1.1 GW of renewables

  • Author
  • Mark Watson
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The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has approved a 306-MW natural gas-fired generator for commercial operation, and another 1.1 GW of solar, wind and battery capacity entered the final stages before commercial operation, a new report shows, but additions for this summer may be light.

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In an April 5 email, Giuliano Bordignon, a power analyst at S&P Global Platts Analytics, said most of ERCOT's new capacity normally comes online in the summer, but "the additions this summer are likely to be minor (we expect just 10 MW in August), with the bulk of this year's new gas capacity being online before then."

As a result of the extreme pricing that occurred during the brutal winter storm of Feb. 14 and thereafter, the Public Utility Commission of Texas has changed the systemwide offer cap from $9,000/MWh to the higher of $2,000/MWh or 50 times the fuel index price, which is a spot price at the Katy Hub.

Asked if the change might diminish the capacity added short term, Bordignon said he did not think the relatively small amount to be added this summer "is a result of this year's reduction in the systemwide offer cap – after all, gas plants can easily operate for 25 years – but part of a more general trend where investors' appetite shifts towards renewable energies."

Joshua Rhodes, a research associate at the University of Texas' Webber Energy Group, reached a similar conclusion.

"I doubt that differences in the prices this summer will change what comes online, as those decisions are typically multi-year decisions," Rhodes said in an April 5 email."

Gas plant not retiring

In a related matter, ERCOT notified market participants April 5 that Luminant, the generation segment of Vistra Energy, had withdrawn its notification of suspension of operations for its 235-MW gas-fired Trinidad Power Plant about 70 miles southeast of Dallas. That unit was to stop operating April 29 and be decommissioned thereafter.

ERCOT's Generation Interconnection Status report, released Feb. 2, shows that ERCOT on March 30 approved Pro Energy Services' 306-MW gas-fired plant to start offering into the market in Houston's Harris County.

The last step before commercial operation is synchronization, making sure resources produce power according to the 60-Hertz frequency. The latest report shows 298 MW of solar and 76 MW of wind approved for synchronization in March.

The step before synchronization is energization, and the latest report shows a 102-MW battery storage site approved for energization in Fort Worth, Texas' Tarrant County, plus 664 MW of solar approved for operation in North Texas' Fannin County, Austin's Travis County and West Texas' Andrews and Culberson counties.

The report also includes a table of projects that ERCOT deems inactive because they have not reached certain benchmarks for completion. Of these, one is a 17.6-MW battery storage site, two are solar projects totaling 277 MW and two are wind projects totaling 700 MW.

The report also shows 10 projects that were canceled outright: two battery storage projects totaling 304.6 MW, four solar projects totaling 421 MW and four wind projects totaling 794 MW.

In all, ERCOT has 151.3 GW of projects in various stages of development, led by 88.9 GW of solar, 30.3 GW of battery storage, 23.9 GW of wind and 7.9 GW of gas-fired generation.

Of that total, 29.6 GW has all relevant studies completed and interconnection agreements, led by 16.3 GW of solar, 9.5 GW of wind and 1.9 GW each of gas-fired generation and battery storage.

ERCOT generation project status changes in March
Commercial operation approved
Natural gas
Synchronization approved
Energization approved
Deemed inactive
Source: Electric Reliability Council of Texas