Following the numerous retirements in late spring and early summer 2015, the installed capacity in PJM suffered a serious blow as over 10 GW of capacity deactivated. However, plans for cleaner, environmentally friendly, new natural gas facilities are coming to fruition.  So far in 2016, Panda Liberty and Woodbridge Energy Center have come into commercial operation. Multiple other generators are expected online this year. This blog post focuses on the most recent addition: the natural gas combined-cycle Brunswick County Power Station.

Overview of Brunswick Power Station

Artist’s rendering of Brunswick County Power StationDominion announced that Brunswick County Power Station was operational and generating electricity for customers on April 25. After receiving approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission in August 2013, Dominion shortly thereafter began construction of Brunswick. While the plant was expected online in 2016, Brunswick was a very welcome early addition to the supply stack as the facility was originally reported to be in commercial operation on September 30, 2016 according to PJM’s interconnection queueDominion’s own website reported an online date of summer 2016. The plant is located in the town of Freeman in Brunswick County, Virginia as part of the Dominion zone in PJM (“DOM”). The combined-cycle facility is composed of three 265 MW gas turbines and one 580 MW steam turbine for a total summer net capacity just under 1,400 MW.

Following the host of retirements in PJM last year, Brunswick is a key block in rebuilding the thin supply stack in PJM. In the Dominion zone in particular, the 600 MW Chesapeake coal plant retired in December 2014 and deactivations at Yorktown were recently pushed back to April 2017 for reliability reasons, highlighting the need for new generation in the region. The new natural gas-fired facility is ideally situated in PJM as it is able to serve load centers in Virginia, while also reducing the need for imports from the surrounding areas, including APS and CPLE. Genscape Analysts forecast that Transco Z5 (non-WGL) gas prices will stay low for the coming months despite the recent fall in supply. The new facility will benefit from inexpensive gas and likely run at baseload levels given that the plant’s heat rate is estimated to be around 6 MMBtu/MWh. Heat rate is a measure of the amount of fuel needed per unit of output from a plant, i.e., the fuel efficiency of a plant. The lower the heat rate, the more efficient a plant is.

Brunswick Power Station Congestion Impacts

Brunswick Power Station MapIn addition to its implications for energy costs, Brunswick will have an impact on a number of different constraints in PJM. One of the plant’s many congestion impacts is easily identified using Genscape’s Power Real-Time (RT) platform. While Brunswick is expected to be added to Power RT, the plant is already included in Genscape’s Natural Gas Real-Time platform, which presents the plant’s gas nominations data on a daily basis.  Beyond the nomination data, those customers with Transmission Real-Time are able to get a sense of Brunswick’s activity by looking at flows on the Wake-Brunswick 500kV line that is currently monitored. Historically, the Wake-Brunswick line always brought power from North Carolina into Virginia - it is one of the key pathways for power to flow between the two states. When imports from North Carolina are particularly strong, the line is often a contingency for a host of constraints in both the DA and RT.  Since Brunswick’s start, flows on Wake-Brunswick 500kV have often reversed. Genscape Analysts are confident that when Brunswick is running, power often flows from Brunswick (Virginia) to Wake (North Carolina).  

As a result of Brunswick Power Station, pressure on Wake-Brunswick is significantly reduced due to less power is required to flow into VA from NC. Going forward, Wake-Brunswick and the Brunswick Switching Station are not expected to be contingencies for constraints as frequently as they have been in the past. For reference, thus far in 2016, the total shadow price for constraints with Brunswick as the contingency total $352,480/ MWh in the RT. These constraints included Person-Halifax 230kV and Bed-Bla interface. Looking at day-ahead congestion in 2016, constraints for the loss of Wake-Brunswick have shadow prices that total a staggering $447,778/MWh. Again, coverage of these constraints is expected to soften as Brunswick Power Station alleviates pressure on the surrounding network and the facility considerably lessens the amount of imports needed from North Carolina.

In addition to constraints with Wake-Brunswick as the contingency, there exist other equipment that bind and impact prices at Brunswick. The table below highlights the constraints that Brunswick will help alleviate and exacerbate. Overall, Brunswick is expected to be far more beneficial than harmful in terms of congestion.  

Constraints that Brunswick will help alleviate and exacerbate

Rebuilding the Supply Stack in PJM

Brunswick in combination with a number of other new natural gas plants are changing the congestion setup in PJM and contributing to historically low prices.  Brunswick joins Woodbridge Energy Center and Panda Liberty as new plants that are confirmed to be commercially operational in 2016.  Genscape Power RT monitors showed power plant testing at Panda Patriot in early May, indicating that the plant should come online soon.  Later this year, Joliet units 6-8 and Shawville units 1-4 are expected to reincarnate as cleaner and environmentally friendly natural gas-fired facilities.  Outside of PJM, the MISO Covert gas plant will become a PJM unit in June and Watts Bar 2 is expected to come into commercial operation next month.

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Along with Genscape's unparalleled analyst support and insight, Genscape's Natural Gas Real-Time (RT) service provides the most comprehensive view of public data. With up-to-the-minute informational postings for over 200 natural gas pipelines, 900+ pipeline updates per day, covering up to 48 cycles, and a myriad of other public data, analysts now have the comprehensive data they need to know everything. Click here to learn more or request a free trial of Genscape's Natural Gas RT service