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Gas power plant planned


Dallas-based Panda Power, which in eight months has announced natural gas-fired power plants in Temple and Sherman, said Thursday it has secured financing for a second Temple unit, which it expects to go into operation by the summer of 2015.

Panda said the new combined-cycle facility will be 758 megawatts, the same size as its first Temple unit, announced in July.

Combined cycle refers to a power plant that burns natural gas in a turbine to spin a generator, then uses exhaust heat from the turbine to make steam to drive another turbine and generator. It’s the most efficient form of gas-fired generation.

Panda has not disclosed the cost of its projects, but in July it said it signed a $300 million contract with Siemens AG for construction and long-term service. A consortium of Siemens and Bechtel will build the newly announced unit, the company said.

Panda’s Sherman unit, announced in September, is the same size. The first Temple unit and the Sherman unit are expected to go into operation by late 2014.

“With more than 2,250 megawatts of capacity under construction in Texas, we have given our investors a first-mover advantage in one of the fastest-growing electricity markets in the nation,” Todd Carter, president of Panda Power Funds, said in a release. Each plant can supply electricity to about 150,000 Texas residences during an especially hot summer day.

Texas officials are working to ensure adequate sources of power to meet growing demand. Regulators at the Public Utility Commission of Texas have already raised the maximum allowable wholesale prices and are considering other measures to keep a reserve margin.

The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, which with about 85 percent of Texas electricity demand is the state’s largest power grid , has warned that the margin of capacity over anticipated peak demand could dip below its preferred goal of 13.75 percent as soon as summer.

Panda has said its plants are designed to ramp up quickly, considered an asset given the state’s high volume of wind power. Wind power in West Texas, where most of the state’s wind capacity is located, can decline at midday in summer.