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Xcel Energy to convert oldest Texas coal plant to burn natural gas by January 2025


1,018-MW Harrington generating station

One of largest SO2 sources in Potter county

New York — Xcel Energy Inc. intends to convert its first coal-fired power plant in Texas — a 1,018-MW generating station — to run on natural gas, a plan in line with the investor-owned utility's goal to cut emissions from its generation facilities 80% from 2005 levels by 2030 and be carbon-free by 2050.

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The switch from coal to natural gas at the Harrington Generating Station in Potter County, Texas, northeast of Amarillo, operated by Xcel Energy subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Co., is slated to occur by Jan. 1, 2025.

Billed as "a practical and lower-cost option for helping the area attain higher federal clean air standards" in a Nov. 10 company press release, Xcel Energy said the move will also help Potter County lower its sulfur dioxide emissions. The three-unit plant is one of the largest sources of SO2 emissions in the county, the company said, adding that other options to reduce emissions while still fueling the units with coal made less sense due to high cost.

The first of the three units at the plant began operating in 1976, with others added in 1978 and 1980. All were designed to burn both coal and natural gas, Xcel Energy said.

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence data, the plant's largest source of coal in 2020 has been Peabody Energy Corp.'s North Antelope Rochelle mine in Campbell County, Wyo. The plant also has used coal from Arch Resources Inc.'s Black Thunder mine, also in Campbell County, Wyo.

In the statement, Xcel Energy – New Mexico, Texas President David Hudson noted that a gas-fired Harrington plant would fit better with a power generation portfolio that will see the addition of thousands of megawatts of wind capacity through 2021 because "gas-fired generation is easier to ramp up and down to complement our growing supply of clean wind energy."

A 522-MW wind facility, the Sagamore Wind Project, will start operations in December, Xcel Energy noted. The wind plant, in Roosevelt County, N.M., will also serve Southwestern Public Service customers.

In January, Southwestern Public Service said it would retire its 1,067-MW Tolk power plant in Lamb County, Texas, by the end of 2032. Once that happens, the Xcel Energy subsidiary will no longer have coal-fired resources in its portfolio.

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