By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Calpine has put in a bid to state regulators to nearly double the amount of electricity it produces from its Mankato natural gas plant.
Houston-based Calpine is one of five companies seeking permission from the Public Utilities Commission to meet the state’s increasing power demand, said Dan Wolf, assistant executive secretary at the PUC.
The commission determined Xcel Energy requires up to 500 megawatts of new energy by 2019, an increase of about 5 percent over the company’s summertime demand.
Calpine’s bid is for up to 345 new megawatts; it currently supplies up to 375 megawatts of power.
In its filing with the commission, Calpine said its proposal is “ideally suited to complement the state’s strong interest in promoting intermittent wind and other renewable resources.”
This is because natural gas is a constant and reliable source of power, whereas renewable energy is limited to when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.
The commission will decide in June whether Calpine’s application is valid, but likely won’t decide until early next year which companies will win the bid, Wolf said. The commission will choose winners mostly based on reliability and cost.
More public hearings on the bids are expected later this year.
Though natural gas prices have risen this year, prices have fallen sharply since 2008, largely because of advances in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to get at hard-to-reach gas deposits.
Calpine, which went online in July of 2006, relies on innovative source of cooling water — the city of Mankato’s waste water.