Executives from several Houston area energy companies met April 11 to break ground on a new 121-megawatt, natural gas-fired electric generating peaking facility in the Five Corners Management District.

The new Friendswood Energy Center, scheduled for completion in early 2017, will consist of a Siemens W501D5 gas turbine and associated plant facilities on Hiram Clark Road, seven miles south of downtown and next to an existing Centerpoint Energy substation. The new facility is expected to secure peak energy supply in the Houston Zone of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Dirk Straussfeld, Executive Vice President and CEO of Quantum Utility Generation LLC, said his company has studied the Texas market and believes there will be more of a need for peaking facilities as the state transitions to using more renewable energy from wind and solar.

“The first step in our Texas strategy is to make this state ready for more renewable power,” he said. Quantum’s role in the project will be development and operation.

The new facility is expected to utilize the most advanced, clean-burning natural gas emissions control technology to support renewable generation. Straussfeld said the facility may run between 500 and 700 hours per year, starting and stopping quickly to fill in gaps when wind and solar generation are offline.

There are several logistical advantages to using the brown field site at Hiram Clark, including proximity to the Centerpoint Energy training facility, Straussfeld said. In an industrial area, the facility should be right at home, he added.

“We can be in harmony with our neighborhood,” Straussfeld said.

Executives from Ethos Energy–– the engineering, procurement and construction contractor of the project––have estimated 100 jobs will be created during the construction phase and will contribute $2 million to the local economy.

Bill Magness, President and CEO of ERCOT, said he felt right at home the minute he turned off Hiram Clark onto the site and saw the transmission lines.

“That looks like power to me; it looks like money,” he said. Magness explained that electricity has a very short shelf life and has to be generated as it is needed. ERCOT helps the industry maintain a balance between wind and solar power.

Rep. Alma Allen, PhD, presented a congratulatory proclamation from the state and joked that she had been assured that her electric bill will go down in the summertime––or at least, she would have fewer power interruptions.

Houston City Councilman Larry Green, credited with bringing more than $20 million in business development to District K, also presented a proclamation to commemorate the new facility, and said he’s excited to see the brown field site put to good use.

“We’re excited that the state is moving to renewable energy and we’re excited to house this new Siemens turbine in our district,” he said, adding that he hopes it may lead to other development in the area.

“Its projects like this that make it exciting to represent the area and witness the growth,” Green added.