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The Red Gate Power Plant

Featured: The Red Gate Power Plant uses 12 of the largest natural gas-powered reciprocating engines in the world to produce 224 net megawatts of electricity. To provide a sense of scale, each of the 12 massive engines stands over 21 feet high and 63 feet long with 20-inch pistons producing over 26,000 horse power per engine.

Photograph By ALEX RÍOS

The formal grand opening in late-October 2016 of the $210 million Red Gate Power Plant north of Edinburg is the most recent symbol of population and economic growth in Hidalgo County, including in his House District 40 legislative district, said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. “I am honored to have such an innovative project in my district, employing so many local citizens and helping to conserve water, protect the environment and ensure the reliability of the electric grid in our community and beyond,” Canales said of the state-of-the-art electricity-generating power plant, which is locate at 3428 West FM 490, about 15 miles north of Edinburg. “As an example of its generating capacity, it will produce enough energy to power 50,000 homes.” The Red Gate Power Plant is owned and operated by the South Texas Electric Cooperative (STEC), which is made up of eight member cooperatives, including the Hidalgo County based Magic Valley Electric Cooperative. Canales said the power plant also symbolizes “clean energy” and will continue to draw attention to the Valley and Texas as a champion of renewable resources. “Texas produces more wind energy than any other state, accounting for one-fourth of all wind power in the United States. But sometimes the wind stops blowing and that can cause a lot of stress on our electric grids. Natural gas power plants are essential because they can be switched on instantly when these other renewable sources stop producing,” said Canales, who serves on the House Energy Resources Committee in the Texas House of Representatives.

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Energy, environmental needs for growing House District 40 receives big boost with $210 million Red Gate Power Plant, announces Rep. Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

The formal grand opening in late October 2016 of the $210 million Red Gate Power Plant north of Edinburg is the most recent symbol of population and economic growth in Hidalgo County, including in his House District 40 legislative district, said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

“I am honored to have such an innovative project in my district, employing so many local citizens and helping to conserve water, protect the environment and ensure the reliability of the electric grid in our community and beyond,” Canales said of the state-of-the-art electricity-generating power plant, which is located at 3428 West FM 490, about 15 miles north of Edinburg. “As an example of its generating capacity, it will produce enough energy to power 50,000 homes.”

The Red Gate Power Plant project is one of many successful projects to locate in Hidalgo County, thanks to the work of the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court and economic development staff, said Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García.

“In this case, staff negotiated with its parent company, South Texas Electric Cooperative (STEC), to build on undeveloped property about 2.5 miles west of Texas State Highway 281, with Farm-to-Market Road 490 forming the northern border,” the county judge explained. “This gives us the opportunity to offer more accessibility to power so that it can attract more industry to our area, thus creating more jobs and a better quality of life for our community.”

Canales said the power plant also symbolizes “clean energy” and will continue to draw attention to the Valley and Texas as a champion of renewable resources.

“Texas produces more wind energy than any other state, accounting for one-fourth of all wind power in the United States. But sometimes the wind stops blowing and that can cause a lot of stress on our electric grids,” said Canales, who serves on the House Energy Resources Committee in the Texas House of Representatives. “Natural gas power plants are essential because they can be switched on instantly when these other renewable sources stop producing.”

Perhaps even more impressive than the size of the plant is the fact that this plant can be deployed, with a push of the button, to bring all of that power onto the grid from a cold start in less than five minutes, the state lawmaker noted.

“This type of ‘flexible’ or ‘responsive’ generation is an essential element of a reliable electric grid, especially as we try to integrate more and more wind and solar energy, which is also great for the environment,” Canales said, emphasizing the value of the Red Gate Power Plant’s advanced technology and use of natural gas.

STEC is made up of eight member cooperatives, including the Hidalgo County-based Magic Valley Electric Cooperative, said Hidalgo County Executive Director Bobby Villarreal.

“When we began negotiations, STEC could have selected to locate in any of the various counties in the Magic Valley service area,” Villarreal said. “We were diligent in our efforts to show that Hidalgo County was its best option because of the significant, economic impact it would create.”

Villarreal added that in the recent past the area has experienced rolling black outs during periods of high demand.

“This plant will alleviate that and show that Hidalgo County and South Texas are ready to do business with large manufacturers,” Villarreal said. “This is only the beginning; we have other similar projects in the pipeline.”

The Red Gate Power Plant also will financially benefit the county and Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, both in the short-term and in the long-run.

“Before the power plant was built, the land was designated as an agriculture exemption, which meant it generated very little tax revenue for county government and the Edinburg school district,” the county judge added. “We estimates that Hidalgo County will collect about $17 million in property taxes over the next 25 years.”

Canales further illustrated the value of the Red Gate Power Plant to deep South Texas.

“In addition to the local economic and electric production benefits, the plant is very environmentally-friendly. It uses clean-burning, affordable Texas natural gas and is equipped with air emission controls well in excess of what is required. Just as important in our water-stressed community, this plant consumes a tiny amount of water compared to other electric power technologies,” he said. “Just compare the less than 440 gallons of water this plant consumes a day to the nearly 1200 gallons per minute that a similarly sized state-of-the-art combined cycle natural gas plant consumes.”

As well as employing hundreds over the 15-month construction project, the plant provides 28 permanent, high-paying jobs for area citizens and numerous indirect economic benefits stemming from those jobs and the tax revenue made possible by such a large capital investment ($210 million). This plant is impressive in terms of both electricity production and environmental protection.

The Red Gate Power Plant uses 12 of the largest natural gas-powered reciprocating engines in the world to produce 224 net megawatts of electricity – enough to power almost 50,000 homes. To provide a sense of scale, each of the 12 massive engines stands over 21 feet high and 63 feet long with 20-inch pistons producing over 26,000 horse power per engine.

The cooperative in January 2013 applied at EPA’s Region 6 office for a greenhouse gas permit under the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) program for the Red Gate Power Plant project.

According to the application, STEC is a wholesale generation and transmission electricity provider serving eight member distribution cooperatives over a 44-county area in South Texas. STEC stated the is member cooperatives represent a combined retail loan of over 214,745 wires and 21,062 non-wires customers, and services its member load with a resourceful portfolio incorporating lignite, natural gas, diesel, wind and hydro-electric power from both owned and purchased resources.

STEC’s application explained that its system experienced strong growth in 2011 as a result of extreme weather conditions in both the summer and winter months, such that sales to member cooperatives increased 11.78 percent to 5,014,032 megawatt (MW) hours. STEC asserted that system peak load was 1242 MV, up over 10 percent from the 1127 MW peak load realized in 2010, and that strong system growth was expected to continue with a projected 219 MW capacity additions required to serve the STEC member load by 2017.

To respond to this increasing system growth, STEC proposed the Red Gate Power Plant. The influx of renewable energy into the ERCOT market and the variability associated with renewable technologies, such as wind and solar, put increased demands on grid stability. STEC has represented that larger caseload units are unable to respond adequately to the large swings in generation caused by connection of large quantities of renewables to the grid.

Fast ramping, quick starting, natural gas-fired reciprocating internal combustion engines can help stabilize this volatility and enable the grid to handle the increased renewable profile. ERCOT has recognized this need and increase amount of responsive reserve and regulation resources that are need to support grid operations. This project’s rapid start capability, combined with dispatchable unit size, minimizes part load operation and results in greater overall plant efficiency and reduced emissions.

ERCOT load serving entities are required to procure their load ratio share of ancillary services to support reliable grid operation. These ancillary services include responsive reserve, regulation up, regulation down, and non-spinning reserve, and may be purchased on the market or self-provided. Quick start capability along with fast ramp rates and good part-load efficiency are essential qualities for units providing ancillary services.

Since these services are awarded and paid on a capacity basis even if the service is not dispatched in real-time, they may artificially lower the energy cost and increase the dispatch of flexible simple cycle engine units, such as those that were proposed for Red Gate.

STEC stated that the engines’ efficiency and flexibility, combined with dispatch from ERCOT for ancillary services and transmission support, will lead to dispatch levels that are considerable higher than comparably sized simply cycle turbine facilities.

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Julie Benítez Sullivan contributed to this article. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County. HD 4o includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

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