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Natural gas expansion project to add more reliable energy to Texas grid

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(The Center Square) – On Thursday, a north Texas-based natural gas energy expansion project was announced to further strengthen the Texas grid.

Gov. Greg Abbott, ERCOT President and CEO Pablo Vegas, and Calpine Corporation CEO Thad Hill announced Calpine was expanding its natural gas production operations at its Freestone County Energy Center.

The center is a natural gas-fired combined-cycle facility located near Fairfield, Texas. It was the first facility Calpine built in the northern Texas Regional Entity market area and sells electricity to ERCOT, according to its website. The facility has a Bronze-level membership status in the Clean Texas Program, sponsored by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It was recognized as a leader in Texas for achieving significant environmental results, creating environmental awareness and protecting air, water and land resources in Texas.

The company’s expansion project will bring more than 300 new jobs to Freestone County and 425 megawatts of new, dispatchable generation to the Texas electrical grid, the governor announced at a press conference at Calpine’s Houston headquarters Thursday morning. The expansion is projected to generate an additional 7,000 megawatts of dispatchable generation, slated to come online in 2024.

“The bottom line is Texans need more electrical power,” Gov. Abbott said. “We have a collective responsibility to make sure that we provide the power and electricity to support our growing state by adding new, reliable power plants like this one from Calpine.

“ERCOT, PUC, and power generators are better prepared this winter than ever before because I signed over a dozen laws to ensure they have the tools and strategies needed to generate more power and make our grid more reliable and resilient.

More than 4 million Texas homes lost power in February 2021 amid a massive winter storm that saw deaths in 25 counties.

The Freestone Energy Center expansion “will ensure that reliable power is available in Texas no matter the weather,” he said, thanking Calpine for choosing to expand its operations in Freestone County.

They made the announcement after the legislature passed a bill, which Gov. Abbott signed into law this year to expand energy production. It also came after voters passed Proposition 7, to create a $5 billion Texas Energy Fund as part of a new constitutional amendment to expand energy production.

Gov. Abbott also discussed ongoing partnerships with energy companies at the press conference, explaining their efforts to bring more reliable, dispatchable power to Texans. He also described the measures the Public Utility Commission of Texas, Railroad Commission of Texas, and Electric Reliability Council of Texas have taken to ensure the Texas power grid is winterized, in compliance with legislative reforms implemented after the February freeze of 2021.

These measures include “requiring the most robust weatherization requirements in the nation,” he said, which involve additional on-sight inspections to ensure compliance with new regulations, identifying and mapping Texas’ critical energy infrastructure, implementing better coordination among state resources, personnel and operators, and incentivizing on-site redundant fuel supplies for dispatchable generation.

Calpine Corporation is the largest generator of electricity from natural gas and geothermal resources in the U.S. The Fortune 500 company based in Houston has commercial, industrial and residential retail operations in key competitive power markets and has 76 plants operating in 22 states, Canada and Mexico. These plants generate nearly 26,000 megawatts of capacity, enough to power approximately 20 million homes, according to the company’s website.

Calpine Corporation is owned by a consortium of investors led by Energy Capital Partners, including Access Industries and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, according to its website.

The United States leads the world in geothermal electricity generation, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. In 2018, the U.S. became the world’s leading producer of geothermal energy, producing 16.7 billion kWh of geothermal energy, NS Energy reported. In 2020, the U.S. was the world leader in cumulative installed geothermal capacity, according to Statista.

Texas produces more electricity than any other state, led by the Texas oil and natural gas industry. The industry broke records in every category in 2022, including leading the U.S. in oil and natural gas production and lowered emissions and ranking first in industry job growth, wages, payroll and Gross Regional Product nationwide.

Texas accounts for 43.3% of all oil production and 27.4% of all natural gas marketed production in America, according to a recent Texas Oil & Gas Association report.

If Texas were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest producer of natural gas and fourth-largest oil producer.

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