WPS narrows list of sites for new gas-fired capacity

Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) said Sept. 17 that it has narrowed the list of sites for new natural gas-fired power plants to two: the J.P. Pulliam plant site in Green Bay and the Fox Energy Center near Kaukauna, Wis.

Pulliam has both coal- and gas-fueled units and a capacity of about 440 MW. Fox is a 620-MW gas plant that the Integrys Energy Group (NYSE: TEG) subsidiary recently purchased from subsidiaries of Tyr Energy and General Electric (NYSE: GE).

If WPS elects to build a new generating unit, rather than buy power, the new unit would probably be fueled by natural gas, a WPS spokesperson said Sept. 18.

WPS expects to need roughly 400 MW of replacement power by 2019. WPS recently filed paperwork with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) to complete feasibility studies on two options.

The MISO request is actually for more than 400 MW, the spokesperson said. “It’s a lot easier to scale back” plans than to expand plans, the spokesperson told GenerationHub.

In addition WPS is also in the preliminary stages of formulating its plan to request bids from others who would sell the company the power needed in 2019 in either short- or long-term contracts. WPS expects to issue a request for proposals in early 2014 for replacement power.  

WPS expects to make a decision sometime in 2014 on whether to build or buy power.

In addition to Pulliam and Fox, the company had considered the Kewaunee County area in Wisconsin, either at or near the site of Dominion‘s (NYSE: D) now-closed Kewaunee nuclear station, but obstacles quickly surfaced that took the area out of the running.

“We took a hard look at Kewaunee,” said WPS Vice President of Energy Supply Paul Spicer. “In the end however the obstacles were just too great.”

Spicer said the Dominion site was problematic because of its distance from a suitable natural gas supply (31 miles) and the additional regulatory issues of dealing with a non-generating but still “live” nuclear site which stores spent fuel. “It just would have been too much,” he said in a WPS statement.

He also said that the company considered the Weston plant in Wausau or a new site, but expenses associated with developing those sites made them less competitive than Pulliam or Fox.

WPS has requested that MISO perform feasibility studies for both the Pulliam and Fox sites. The company expects the results of those studies around the end of the year.

Despite modest load growth, WPS will need the additional power because of factors that include coal plant retirements. The WPS spokesperson also said WPS was once majority owner of the Kewaunee plant and bought power from the plant after selling its interest to Dominion several years ago.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.