Gov. Abbott pushes new power generation ideas, projects

A long box filled with dirt was used for a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon with Governor Greg Abbott. Thinking outside the box is what the event was really about.

"Governor. You asked electric providers in this state to step up and build more dispatchable power. And I'm happy to say that LCRA is delivering for you," said LCRA Chairman Tim Timmerman.

Two new power plants are being built in the town of Maxwell, which is located between Lockhart and San Marcos. The LCRA project started last year with Unit 1 and is now officially expanding to a second unit. 

The buildup, which increased the project cost to more than $700 million, was praised by Gov Abbott.

"It will ensure that the power will remain on for an additional 100,000 homes. That is an extraordinary benefit to the Texas power grid," said Gov. Abbott.

The Maxwell site will be larger, but similar in concept, to a facility built by the city of Denton. It’s called a Peaker Plant. Not the size of a major electrical generation plant, Peaker Plants are designed to feed the power grid when demand is high or to act as a fail-safe when main-line plants fail.

"What is happening here is actually part of an intense effort by the state to add more power to the grid. In just the last one year. We've added more than 3,800MW of dispatchable power to the ERCOT grid. Plus, there's 7,300MW of dispatchable power to be added in the next 12 months," said Abbott.  

The Maxwell site, which will be fed by natural gas, is being named after LCRA Chairman Tim Timmerman. Unit 1 is to be completed by 2025. Unit 2 a year later, in 2026.

From the groundbreaking ceremony in Maxwell, the governor left for Houston. He was a featured speaker at an electrical energy policy summit that took place at Rice University. The gathering of power experts was held to find new ways to generate power and to encourage building them. 

During the speech, the Governor noted his trip to Maxwell, as well as his efforts to encourage new power generation ideas like advanced nuclear energy and battery storage. Abbott also announced a new directive he issued Tuesday.

"To ensure these new dispatchable power plants are built as fast as possible, earlier today I instructed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to expedite the permitting process, to make sure they prioritize these new power generators especially those tapping into the fund that we allocated to make sure they are done as quickly as possible," said Governor Abbott.

The hope is to expand on reforms made by state lawmakers. That includes encouraging access into a new $13 billion program to promote construction. It prompted the CEO of LCRA, Phil Wilson, to green-light expansion at the Maxwell site.

"We're looking at the Completion Bonus. We're looking at the program you can get as a result of the loan program, we're doing all the math on that, but it's a great resource to have for us and others who want to invest in the state," said Wilson.

Applying for the "Bonus" could provide LCRA with $10 million to $20 million per plant, according to Wilson. 

As for next steps, Wilson told FOX 7, they will monitor the economy, but LCRA has no immediate plans to build large full-time power plants. When asked if LCRA would consider some of the new applications being advanced in Nuclear Energy, Wilson seemed open to the idea.

"I think all things are on the table," said Wilson.