Need and location are two key factors any business considers before opening.
The location of natural gas pipe lines and electrical transmission lines and the growing need for additional electricity sources for the middle Rio Grande area are the attractions of southern Valencia County to power-generating companies, experts say.
Peoples Energy Resources is the second company attempting to tap these factors, as it proposes building a peak power-generating plant in the Rio Grande Industrial Park south of Rio Communities on NM 304.
Cameron Epard, director of the power generation division of Peoples Energy Resources, spoke to the Rio Communities Association on Monday about his company and the natural-gas-fueled power plant proposed for the industrial park located south of Rio Communities on NM 304.
“I am here to give you the facts about the peak plant we are proposing to build here,” Epard said. “This is the third group I have spoken to, and there will be many more meetings to get the information out.”
There are five criteria involved in selecting the location for a new power plant, according to Epard, and Valencia County meets all of these criteria.
“The first being a need for power. The electricity needs of the Middle Rio Grande region, which we consider to be Valencia, Bernalillo, Sandoval and Torrance counties, is increasing because of the growth in the area,” he said.
The growth is causing the baseload of electricity needs in the area to increase, according to Epard, which is causing the transmission lines from the Four Corners area power plants to be running at near capacity.
“The effort to get additional transmission lines is not progressing. So the area is ideal for merchant generators to provide electricity for the peak times of power use,” he said.
“Our plant will be a peak plant which will be called upon during times of high demand, usually from mid-day to 6 p.m. There is a higher draw on electricity during this time of the day because of the need of air conditioning during the summer and people using computers at work and at home.
“The best type of plant for peak generation is simple cycles because they can be started up on a moment’s notice.”
Another criterion for selecting the location for a new power plant is access to electric transmission lines and natural gas and water and a site which is appropriately zoned.
The fact that transmission lines and two natural gas lines travel through southern Valencia County is the reason Peoples Energy is among the companies pursuing permits to build a power plant.
“The natural gas lines are two to three miles south of the proposed location. There is a transmission line north of the location which travels from Belen to Willard then around to Moriarty and Algondones, north of Albuquerque.”
The transmission line also connects at the Belen substation to the Tomé and El Cerro Manzano substations and goes on to Albuquerque at the Delta Pearson peak plant on Rio Bravo Avenue.
Regarding the issue of water, Peoples Energy has made an agreement with Rio Grande Utilities to purchase water for the cooling of air into the power plant.
“The power plant is a simple cycle, which means it uses natural gas to heat pressurized air, which expands and turns turbines, which turns a generator,” Epard said of how the power plant works.
“The temperature of the air is important in the efficiency of the power plant. The cooler the air, the greater the efficiency,” he said. “The plant is most efficient when the air is between 45 degrees and 65 degree Fahrenheit.”
Peoples Energy engineers are still deciding which method it will use to cool the air.
“We have three options,” Epard said. “The first being a refrigeration system, called a chiller, which uses ammonia. The second is an evaporation cooling system like swamp coolers on people’s homes. The third is a system which sprays a mist into the turbine that creates a cooling affect.”
Epard pointed out that the amount of water used will be determined by the temperature of the air. “We do not expect to use more than 100 million acre feet of water a year,” he said.
Zoning requirements are why Peoples Energy selected the Rio Grande Industrial Park for its proposed location. “It is the only place in the county which is zoned for heavy industry,” Epard said. “We didn’t want to have to go through the zoning process required for other locations.”
With these criteria fulfilled, Peoples Energy is proposing to build a 280-megawatt power plant on eight acres of an 18-acre parcel of land. The location of the plant will be east of the Solo Cup factory in the industrial park.
“This will be a state-of-the-art facility, which will be one of the cleanest and most reliable peaking facilities in the world,” Epard said.