El Paso Electric completes 88-MW Unit 4 at gas plant

El Paso Electric (EPE) (NYSE:EE) has completed the 88-MW Unit 4 at its Montana Power Station, located in east El Paso County.

The company noted in a Sept. 15 news release that this marks the completion of the 352-MW Montana natural gas power plant.

Similarly to Units 1-3, Montana Unit 4 has an 88-MW turbine powered by natural gas and was completed on time and on budget, the utility said. Units 1 and 2 became operational in March of 2015, and Unit 3 became operational this spring.

As expected, these units are already performing at approximately a 40% capacity factor and even higher during the summer months, El Paso Electric said.

The company first began seeking permits for the plant in Texas and New Mexico in late 2012.

“As customer demand continues to grow, the peaking capability and quick-starting technology of these units will allow EPE to meet our customers’ energy‐demand fluctuations in an efficient and cost‐effective manner,” said El Paso Electric CEO Mary Kipp.  “Additionally, these new units are 20% to 37% more efficient than older conventional steam units, which helps keep El Paso Electric’s carbon footprint low,” Kipp said.

In 2010, EPE hired an outside expert to identify potential areas in Texas and New Mexico for new generating facilities, according to an EPE fact sheet on the facility.

The site is located within the service territory on the growing east side of El Paso. The station’s location will enhance overall system reliability by reducing the risk of outages due to transmission system failure, EPE has said. The permanent staff at the plant should number about 15, according to EPE.

The company anticipates filing new rate cases in Texas and New Mexico in early 2017. Investment in the Montana natural gas plant, and other electric service investments, is prompting the new for the rate cases, El Paso said.

In 2017, EPE will be operating its first Community Solar Program which will provide customers with the opportunity to voluntarily subscribe to solar generation from a new 3-MW solar project located behind the Eastside Operation Center.

EPE will also be launching a new demand response pilot program which will be a voluntary subscription program that engages EPE’s customers to reduce their electricity use primarily during peak hours, the company said.

EPE has a net dependable generating capability of 1,990 MW.

El Paso Electric is a regional electric utility providing generation, transmission and distribution service to approximately 400,000 retail and wholesale customers in a 10,000 square mile area of the Rio Grande valley in west Texas and southern New Mexico. 

Its service territory extends from Hatch, New Mexico to Van Horn, Texas and includes two connections to Juarez, Mexico and the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), Mexico’s national utility.


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.