"Our base loads are doing most of the work throughout the year, but the loads go way up in the middle of the summer. We recognized there's a market for energy grid reliability at peak energy periods, so we offered to build new units for that market and ended up winning the auction to do it," said Rich Lopriore, president of PSEG Fossil, which operates PSEG Power's portfolio of natural gas-powered units. "I think there's always an opportunity where an energy system could require these types of units to be put in."
After nearly $255 million of investment and three years of construction, Lopriore said the six units began operating June 1, and provided the regional electric grid PJM Interconnection with 125,000 megawatts of electricity throughout the summer.
Though each unit can deliver up to 48 megawatts of electricity during periods of high demand, Lopriore said among PSEG's 17 existing natural gas peaking units in Connecticut and New Jersey, only 50 megawatts were produced this morning, while the company's "base load engines are running at their max load."
In order to gain necessary permits to install the new machines, Lopriore said PSEG needed to disassemble two older peaking units at the Kearny site, which the company said is ongoing. However, to comply with stricter federal clean air regulations that will be enacted in 2015, Lopriore said PSEG may need to retire a portfolio of older units producing a total of 1,700 megawatts of energy, and replace them with natural gas-powered turbines, like those in Kearny, to deliver a similar amount of energy in a more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly fashion.
Though Lopriore said "the (electricity) load forecasters say the load will stay flat for the foreseeable future" — leaving the outlook for energy demand and plant development in New Jersey uncertain — he said the company "certainly believes if there's an opportunity for development, we want to be players."
"We know how to build this stuff … and we're very proud of what we do," Lopriore said. "There's all kinds of complexities when you want to build new units, but we're still going to be in there, doing all the right things to supply New Jersey and the New Jersey grid with reliable, clean energy."