Editor’s note: The GE J920 is an internal combustion engine that runs on natural gas and drives an 8.6 MW generator. As such, it can cycle up and down in seconds matching its output to the surrounding wind production and grid loads. Natural-gas powered generators and wind power are natural allies and the news here is a peek at the future of power production.
GE has announced the opening of Sky Global Partners, LLC’s “Sky Global Pow
er One” power plant, which features six of GE’s Jenbacher J920 FleXtra gas engines—representing the first six 60-hertz, 8.6-megawatt units to be in commercial operation in the United States. The 51-MW plant is located in Colorado County, Texas, and will supply peaking power to meet the power demands of the 18,000 members of San Bernard Electric Cooperative (SBEC) in an eight-county region of south Central Texas.
“This is a significant part of our power strategy going forward and provides us with protection from electricity exchange price spikes and the opportunity to increase the value of our cooperative.”
The plant will use no more water than a single residence. Sky Global Partners will sell peaking power generation to the San Bernard Electric Cooperative which supplies electricity to more than 18,000 members. This partnership between Sky Global Partners and SBEC lets the Cooperative participate in the value of the project through its investment in the purchased power over time.
“The plant will serve the electrical needs of our membership when needed and be a merchant plant for others when not serving our needs,” said Billy Marricle, president and general manager of San Bernard. “This is a significant part of our power strategy going forward and provides us with protection from electricity exchange price spikes and the opportunity to increase the value of our cooperative.”
Due to the increasing installed base of renewable power generation in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) region and the intermittent nature of these energy sources, the power plant must be able to provide a high degree of flexibility within a short period to offset the volatility of the wind and solar resources, thus ensuring grid stability.
While GE supplied the core equipment consisting of six engines and the exhaust emission reduction systems, Sky Global Partners contracted with Haskell to design and construct the overall power plant. Sky Global Partners is the managing partner. SBEC’s participation in the project includes not only purchasing power, but also active participation in the management of the power plant. The financial collaborators for the plant are Sky Global Partners, Prudential Capital Group and The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company.
“For over a decade, Sky Global had been seeking a means to improve the value of power supply for the public power sector in Texas. This project is the first to achieve that vision, which is largely due to the combined efforts of GE’s technology, Haskell’s execution, Prudential Capital Group’s unique financing structure and the strategy of SBEC’s leadership,” said Frank Rotondi, president and CEO of Sky Global Partners.
Texas produces and consumes more electricity than any other state, accounting for more than one-tenth of total U.S. energy use. Contributing factors include its large and growing population, extreme summer temperatures and extensive industrial and manufacturing sector. When compared to the rest of the country, Texas has a higher concentration of energy-intensive industries such as aluminum, chemicals, forest products, glass and petroleum refining.
“Currently, more than one in six people in the world lack access to electricity, and one in three can’t depend on the sources they have1. Countries such as the U.S. that have reliable access face big challenges as they look to upgrade aging infrastructure while making economic, environmental and efficiency improvements. Reliable and flexible power is key to economic success,” said Heiner Markhoff, president & CEO for GE Water & Distributed Power at GE Power. “As Texas continues to grow, it must invest in more power generation to ensure a reliable and affordable supply during peak power, and the Sky Global Power One project is one solution to help solve Texas’ energy needs. The best-in-class electrical efficiency of GE’s Jenbacher J920 FleXtra gas engines adds up to big savings in fuel over the life cycle of a plant.”