Texas A&M wants to help build more plants to feed power grid

Texas A&M is looking to get into the power generation business. This summer, grid managers with ERCOT are expecting several days when demand for electricity could exceed generation. 

Near San Marcos, LCRA is building what’s called a Peaker Plant to help provide additional power to the grid. Texas A&M wants to help build more of those types of plants and Chancellor John Sharp told FOX 7 they are looking for a team.

"We've got lots of land where power lines and natural gas lines intersect. And we want to offer those, to help solve this problem," said Sharp. 

A&M has identified more than 50 sites within the ERCOT system as possible locations for Peaker Power Plants.

"For those companies that are interested, we'll have to go to the PUC next month and say, okay, these are the locations that we're interested in. And then we do a request for proposal, this summer," said Sharp. 

The companies that are selected to partner with A&M may tap into a special low interest loan program created by the legislature to pay for construction.

"It'll be a land lease. In other words, we won't give any land away to anybody," said Sharp.

As part of the agreement, A&M could make money when the Peaker plants spin up and push electricity into the Texas grid. How much money has not yet been determined.

"That's not the motivation," said Sharp, who went on to say the idea is about providing a service to the State.

Construction, according to Sharp, could begin in late fall or early winter. But the A&M Peaker plan isn't big enough for Ed Hirs, an Energy Fellow at the University of Houston.

"These are just Band-Aids. And again, it's not necessarily a net increase in capacity on the grid," said Hirs. 

Small modular nuclear reactors, known as SMR, are the future of electrical power generation and Texas A&M University should be focused on that technology, Hirs said.

"A&M has all the capabilities to bring small modular reactors to market. Putting that into some sort of mass production, having A&M get involved with that, I think would be an outstanding use of A&M resources," said Hirs.


It wasn’t that long ago the idea of using nuclear power to generate electricity generated outcries and protests. Hirs says SMR’s are self-contained, safer and are already under construction.

"Dow Chemicals is contracted for four small modular reactors in their SeaDrift, Texas plant. You know, industry has figured out that they can't rely on ERCOT for reliable power. Number one and number two, for cost-effective power," said Hirs.

To address growing demand, Chancellor Sharp agrees, a bolder move is needed.

"The next great crisis in this country, there's going to be a shortage of electricity," said Sharp.

Addressing that crisis will involve A&M, but doing so may not involve the university getting directly involved in building larger power plants, Sharp said.

"We're going to talk about that and how to solve that particular problem. But that's a that's another story in another press conference," said Sharp.

That next story and next news conference will happen on Wednesday, May 29. A&M is expected to provide specific details on how it's getting bigger, and bolder, in the power generation game.