Opportunities for Replacing Peaker Plants with Energy Storage in Texas

In this analysis, we assess where solar and storage have the potential to replace existing Texas peaker power plants and where their deployment may yield the greatest environmental health and equity benefits.  Across Texas, 65 gas- and oil-fired peaker power plants and peaking units at larger plants help meet statewide peak electric demand. These facilities include gas turbines and internal combustion engines designed to ramp up quickly and meet peak demand, as well as older steam turbines now operated infrequently as peaker plants. Many of these units are co-located at the same facilities.

Texas peak electric demand is met by plants with a wide spectrum of characteristics, including: 21 aging steam plants that are more than 50 years old; 11 gas turbines built in just the last five years; plants in rural areas; and plants in urban areas near vulnerable populations. Units that are aging, inefficient, run infrequently, have high emission rates, run for short periods of time, or are located in urban areas—particularly near vulnerable populations or in areas with poor air quality—may be good candidates for replacement with energy storage, solar, demand response, or a mix of clean energy resources. In addition, energy storage could be considered as an alternative to five proposed new peaker plants and units in the state.

Texas has significant wind and solar potential, and energy storage could help integrate these variable resources while simultaneously helping meet the state’s rapidly growing peak demand. Distributed solar+storage could also enhance resilience by providing backup power during outages caused by extreme weather events. However, Texas has a complicated regulatory environment that currently limits the role of energy storage on the electric grid; revision of these regulations would enable energy storage to better meet peak demand across the state. Storage is currently most cost-competitive with peaker plants, but moving forward this approach can set a precedent for displacing fossil fuel power plants across the grid.

Texas Summary: Read about our findings for energy storage peaker plant replacement opportunities.

Technical Documentation: Look up data sources, methods, and a discussion of state-level policy and regulatory considerations.

Texas Peaker Power Plant Map: Explore and visualize peaker plant data for gas- and oil-burning power plants used statewide to meet peak electric demand, including data on operations, greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions, and nearby population demographics. We include combustion turbine, steam, and internal combustion power plants as well as units at larger plants that are 5MW or larger and burn oil and gas at a low capacity factor⁠—less than 15 percent. The data do NOT include nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, biomass, coal, natural gas combined cycle, or geothermal generation.

Texas Peaker Power Plant Mapping Tool

Data are available in multiple views. Click below to explore:

  1. Statewide Map and Demographics: Map Texas power plants and visualize demographic data for nearby populations.
  2. Cumulative Vulnerability Index: Compare plants across an index of environmental, health, and socioeconomic burden indicators for populations living nearby.
  3. Individual Plant Demographic View: Search for data on populations living near an individual power plant.
  4. Individual Plant Operational View: Search for individual power plants and visualize historic generation and emissions data.
  5. Plant Indicator Ranking: Rank plants by selected environmental or demographic indicators.
  6. Data Comparison View: Select, compare, and plot user-specified data sets.

Quick Tips

  1. For a deeper view of specific maps or data: Select individual tabs on multi-tab visualizations.
  2. For a full-screen visualization: Click on the full-screen icon at the bottom right corner of a tab.  
  3. To download images or data from an individual plot or map: Click on the download icon at the bottom right of that figure.  
  4. To undo all filters: Click on the revert icon at the bottom right corner of a tab. 
  5. To embed or share a link to a specific map view: Click the connections icon on the bottom right of your map results.  
  6. To re-center maps: Click on the home icon, which appears when you hover in the top left corner of the map. 
  7. To look up terminology: Use the Glossary page.

Texas Peakers: Statewide Map and Demographics

Explore a map of Texas’ peaker power plants in relation to demographic indicators. Hover or click on an individual plant on the map to pull up its data. Use filters to select measures such as Plant Name or Plant Technology Type, which will indicate if a plant is stand-alone gas turbine or steam plant or a peaking unit located at a larger plant.

Example question: Which plants are located in urban, low-income or minority communities?

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Cumulative Vulnerability Index

We developed a Cumulative Vulnerability Index to compare the socioeconomic and environmental burdens on communities living near each power plant. This index is calculated by averaging the state percentiles of populations living near each plant for ten environmental indicators and four demographic indicators, and then summing the scores for these two categories. If the population near a plant scored the median value on every indicator, its index score would be the reference value of 100. For full methods, see the technical documentation. Below, select a Distance from Plant of 1 or 3 miles to compare the populations living within this distance of each plant.

Note: Some plants have no population within a 1-mile radius and therefore no score.

Example question: Which plants are located in communities with high cumulative environmental and socioeconomic burdens?

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Individual Plant Demographic View

Look up an individual Plant Name to find the demographics of populations living near the plant. Select a Radius of 1 or 3 miles to find average data for populations living within the chosen distance from the plant.

Example question: What is the total population living within one mile of a plant?

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Individual Plant Operational View

Look up an individual Plant Name to find information such as where the plant is located and the plant’s historical generation and emissions. Use the Year filter to find the average annual generation and emissions over the selected time period. Click on additional tabs to view a table or figure on its own.

Example questions: How many times does a plant start per year?  How many hours does it run when it is turned on? Plant start-up periods have higher emission rates, and 3-5 hours might be a good match for energy storage.

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Plant Indicator Ranking

Hover below a column and click the ranking icon to re-rank the plants by a given environmental, demographic or operational indicator value. By default, plants are ranked by capacity (size). Use filters to select the Plant Type and the Distance from Plant used to analyze population data. By default, the columns are ranked by the plant size (capacity).

NOTE: Some data, such as generation on poor air quality days, are missing for certain plants.

Example question: Which plants have the highest emission rates of nitrogen oxides (NOₓ for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated? A MWh of an alternative resource would have the greatest emission benefits from displacing a MWh from one of these plants.

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Data Comparison View

Choose which datasets to compare to create your own plot. Select X-Axis Selector and Y-Axis Selector to choose two datasets to compare. Use the Distance from Plant filter to select population in a 1- or 3-mile distance from the plant.

Note: Some data, such as run times, are missing for certain plants. Other plants have no populations nearby and therefore no demographic data. In either case, individual plants without data will not show up under search bar.

Example question: Which plants are old and have low capacity factors? These might be good candidates for replacement. 

More Information

See Glossary for definitions and Technical Documentation for methods and data sources.

Contact Us

To ask questions, make comments, report any errors in the data, or request a walk-through of the data visualizations, please contact Elena Krieger at: krieger@psehealthyenergy.org. These data are accurate to the best of our knowledge, but there are sometimes discrepancies in data aggregated from multiple sources and there may be errors in the compilation. We would appreciate your input if you notice any anomalies or inaccuracies to help us improve these visualizations. We are also eager to help you navigate and use the tool, so please reach out if we can help you use the tool to answer any specific questions!


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