BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — The Brownsville Public Utilities Board (BPUB) today announced that it has entered into a development and purchase agreement with independent energy company Tenaska to purchase an ownership interest that entitles it to receive 200 megawatts (MW) in a proposed 800-MW natural gas-fueled generating facility being developed by Tenaska in Brownsville. The agreement was signed January 25.
BPUB’s share of the plant would have the capability of providing enough power to meet the electricity needs of approximately 100,000 Brownsville-area customer homes. The project would move forward after Tenaska secures appropriate permits and agreements with other wholesale customers to purchase the remainder of the plant’s capacity.
“Brownsville has reached a unique crossroad. We are growing, and our power needs are growing with us. Leaders have laid out an aggressive economic development plan for coming decades, and Tenaska is presenting us with the opportunity to produce reliable and affordable power locally,” said BPUB General Manager and CEO John Bruciak, P.E.
“Combine that with the prospect of working with a company that is both well known to us and is well respected in the industry, and we knew this was a growth opportunity we should seriously consider.”
Bruciak said BPUB studies indicated purchasing an ownership interest in a larger plant is the way to best meet the Brownsville area’s increasing need for power at the lowest overall cost possible for its customers.
“For over a century, Brownsville citizens have chosen to take control of their hometown utility’s destiny by voting to create and expand the local systems, and this agreement is in keeping with that tradition,” Bruciak said. “The Brownsville Public Utilities Board opts to build and own power and water supply assets locally, which has been a key factor in our ability to keep rates low compared to other areas of the state. The development agreement with Tenaska is the best way to continue our record.”
On December 11, 2012, BPUB received approval from the Brownsville City Commission to create a city-owned wholesale natural gas utility system. This system would transport natural gas for the proposed electrical power generating facility into the area via pipeline.
In addition, Bruciak said the plant and its natural gas infrastructure would ensure adequate power and resources to help support larger industrial customers and further development at the Port of Brownsville and the rapidly growing Rio Grande Valley. Purchasing a portion of the electricity from a larger power plant adds to the efficiency and economy of scale – savings that can be passed on to our BPUB customers.
Tenaska Director of Development Mike Roth said that the proposed project, referred to as the Tenaska Brownsville Generating Station, would be a clean-burning, natural gas-fueled combined-cycle power plant. The 22- to 26-month construction period would provide about 600 to 700 jobs at peak, with the plant providing approximately 25 full-time operations jobs.
“This plant would be of economic benefit to the Brownsville and Rio Grande Valley area, providing plentiful and reliable electric power to encourage job creation and new development, as well as an increased tax base and revenues for local businesses,” Roth said.
Roth said the total contribution to the community over the 30-year life of the plant is estimated to add $100 million, including tax revenue to the city of Brownsville, Cameron County, Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District and other taxing entities.
Roth said the plant would help the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the electric transmission system that serves most of Texas, maintain enough generating capacity in the area to support a reliable electric supply in the midst of continued economic expansion. Additional electric capacity would help prevent blackouts and brownouts in South Texas during such times as extreme weather and unplanned power plant outages.
Tenaska has selected a site of approximately 270 acres in north Brownsville on the north side of the 511 Corridor at Old Alice Road. After securing the appropriate permits and securing contracts with customers to purchase the remainder of the power, Tenaska could begin construction as early as 2014, with completion as early as 2016.
Under the agreement, the Tenaska Brownsville Generating Station would create a recycling opportunity by reusing treated wastewater supplied by BPUB’s Robindale Wastewater Treatment Plant. This would also create a new revenue stream for BPUB.
Roth said Tenaska places importance on becoming an active member of the communities in which it does business.
“Our employees take pride in supporting civic and educational activities, and we’ve developed an annual scholarship program for college-bound students where we have facilities,” Roth said. “We look forward to becoming a part of the Brownsville community.”
Tenaska has developed more than 9,000 MW of generating capacity in the United States and internationally, including four plants in Texas – Paris and Cleburne, and the Frontier Generating Station in Grimes County and Gateway Generating Station in Rusk County, both still owned and operated by Tenaska. Tenaska’s largest regional office is located in Dallas.
Tenaska Power Services Co. (TPS), Tenaska’s power marketing affiliate, signed BPUB as its first customer in 1997. TPS has helped BPUB successfully manage its power supply for more than 15 years, acting as a partner to help keep electric prices affordable for BPUB ratepayers.
“Brownsville Public Utilities Board has a long-standing record in the power business, often setting the standard for reliability and innovation in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and nationally,” Roth said. “We are pleased to build on our already successful relationship with BPUB and other successful projects in the great state of Texas.”
Tenaska is committed to answering questions about the development of the project in Brownsville and making relevant information available to the community on a timely basis, Roth said. Tenaska project leaders can be reached directly by emailing email@example.com  or calling (402) 691-9500.