Source: Pmelton87 (Wikimedia)
This past Friday, the Texas grid operator, ERCOT received a notification from the City of Garland that the Gibbons Creek Generating Station will be retired permanently as of October 23, 2019.
The Texas cities of Bryan, Garland, Denton, and Greenville are the members that make up the Texas Municipal Power Agency (TMPA), which operated the Gibbons Creek Generation Station, a 470 megawatt (MW) coal plant located just a few miles east of Bryan/College Station. Over the past few years, the member-cities had been looking for a buyer to take this coal plant off their hands, but no deal materialized and the cities decided in late 2018 that the best move would be to mothball the plant indefinitely.
The coal plant itself has been in a rapid decline. Last year, the utilities agreed to only run the coal plant in the summer months, as it simply could not compete when wholesale prices were lower, and earlier this year, they made an even more definitive decision: mothball the coal plant indefinitely. On June 6th, the cities that own the coal plant met in Richardson, Texas as part of the Board Meeting of the Texas Municipal Power Agency and decided collectively to pursue retirement, a decision that was confirmed on June 28th. As part of the retirement, each city utility is setting up a decommissioning fund to pay the costs of retirement and clean-up costs.
“As a long term Garland resident, I congratulate Garland Power & Light for making the right decision to finally and permanently retire the Gibbons Creek coal plant. I look forward to GP&L's use of more clean energy from wind and solar to power our homes and businesses,” said Roxanne Seibert, long term Garland resident. In October 2018 I was happy to sign up for Garland's 100% renewable utility program for the cost of only a penny more per kilowatt hour. We must move aggressively towards 100% renewable energy to preserve our planet and protect future generations. Good job GP&L. Let's keep moving forward.”
Meanwhile, the owners of Gibbons Creek have been investing in clean, and more economic generation like solar and wind. Denton, Garland, and Bryan have all sought large-scale solar power to meet their energy demand in the past year. In late 2018, the City of Denton approved some 75 MWs of solar energy, in a project called Samson, to be located 100 miles northeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area in Lamar County and would be operational by June 2022. The exact size of the project has yet to be determined, but could be between 200 and 500 MWs. In addition, both the City of Bryan and the City of Garland have subsequently agreed to invest in the project.
A second contract is a 225 MW project known as Long Draw Solar, to be located 280 miles west of Denton in Borden County and operational by June 2020. Under this agreement, Denton gets 75 MWs of power, while New Braunfels, Garland and the City of Kerrville would also invest in the project. Finally, most recently, Garland agreed to invest in part of an up to 255 MW solar project in West Texas, in Pecos County, in a project known as “Greasewood” that would be operational in 2020.
“Over the last two years, the utilities that own Gibbons Creek have signed new solar contracts which will help these cities collectively get more than half of their energy needs from renewable energy contracts,” noted Cyrus Reed, Interim Director at the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “As we call on these public utilities to do even more on solar, wind, storage and energy efficiency toward an eventual 100% clean energy grid, we applaud the great steps they have already made in shutting down a coal plant and investing in new zero-emission technology that will also be a win for ratepayers.”
The Sierra Club has been advocating for a transition from coal to clean energy, such as solar, wind, and energy storage, and the retirement of Gibbons Creek represents a great step towards a state free of coal pollution. Gibbons Creek is the 291st coal plant to be retired since the beginning of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.