Late last year, Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), a subsidiary of Integrys Energy Group (NYSE:TEG), announced a need for an additional 400-500 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity by 2019. Among the options it considered were to purchase power from other energy suppliers, buy an existing or new generating facility, or add another natural gas-fueled generator to the site of the Fox Energy Center near Wrightstown, WI. After nearly a year of review and analysis, the company has determined that adding a generator to Fox Energy Center is the best option for customers. It expects to file an application with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) in January 2015.
The company will propose a new 400-MW combined-cycle natural gas turbine. "The industry is moving toward the use of highly efficient combined-cycle generators," said WPS Vice President – Energy Supply Paul Spicer. "Fox Energy Center already is home to two combined-cycle units. We looked at many options and adding a generator to Fox is a good fit for our company and customers."
With the addition of the new unit, the Fox Energy Center will be capable of churning out about 1,000 MW of electricity.
The benefits of building at the Fox Energy Center include:
- Access to natural gas, cooling water, and electric transmission facilities already in place at the site.
- Operational efficiencies with the ability to complement the existing plant staff with just a few new full-time employees.
- A location that will improve system reliability. The electric grid in Wisconsin is losing, or has lost, generation facilities in nearby locations of Kewaunee, Green Bay, Wausau, and Sheboygan.
- Owning the generation instead of buying provides much greater opportunity to control costs and reduces risk in the long-term.
The approval process involves months of PSCW study and review, as well as technical and public hearings at which members of the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on their opinion of the project. Additional information on the project schedule as well as the estimated project cost will be included in the company's filing with the PSCW.
Construction would likely begin late in the spring of 2016. During construction, about 400 workers will be needed at its peak. The new generator would also lead to approximately 10 new full-time positions at Fox Energy Center.
Spicer said that WPS has several older coal-fired generating units which may face retirement because of increasingly stringent environmental regulations. The company also expects some moderate growth as the economy continues to inch upward.