Exelon begins work on power plant expansions near Houston

Chicago-based Exelon Corp. recently began construction on power plant expansions near Houston and Fort Worth, which rely on cheap natural gas and less water consumption. The projects, estimated at roughly $750 million each, are likely to triple the amount of power production at Exelon’s Colorado Bend Generating Station in Wharton. The Wharton station is about 45 miles southwest of Houston.

The second 1,000-MW expansion is for the Wolf Hollow Generating Station outside of Fort Worth. It is enough to power nearly 750,000 homes, and adds to the existing six-unit, 498-MW natural gas power plant in Wharton. The plant joined Exelon’s fleet in 2012 as part of Exelon’s acquisition of Constellation Energy.

Exelon is using combined-cycle gas turbines manufactured by General Electric, which rely on closed-loop, air-cooling systems that use about 10 percent of the water consumption of normal gas turbine plants. The two new projects are likely to be completed before the summer of 2017.

Dave Sikora, Exelon’s head of engineering and projects said, “It’s a clean-burning technology and you’re able to produce larger amounts of power. It’s what the market is driving us to.” Though it is more expensive to build, Sikora said, the company’s is doing it, knowing that water is becoming a more scarce resource.

Exelon focuses more on natural gas-fired and nuclear power plants and has supported the federal government’s push to regulate emissions, which has a greater impact on coal-fired plants. Exelon has six gas-fired plants in Texas, including the Wharton plant and its ExTex LaPorte Generating Station.