The Indian River Power Plant near Millsboro could stay open beyond 2022 while upgrades are made to the grid.
Plant owner NRG earlier announced plans to close the state’s last coal-fired power plant in 2022, citing low wholesale prices that came out of a bidding process for electric power.
The shutdown date had been slated for May 31, 2022.
Regional grid operator PJM confirmed that the plant closing could be pushed back if grid stability is an issue.
PJM spokesman Jeffrey Shields stated that once a power plant is targeted for retirement, the grid manager uses a 90-day process to review the potential effects on the transmission system. That review will be completed by the end of September.
Shields noted that some transmission upgrades around the plant had been scheduled within a 2026-2027 time frame.
Although PJM can’t force an owner to keep a power plant open, it will work to develop ways to keep it running and allow for the recovery of costs, if the grid’s stability is an issue.
Shields confirmed that PJM is currently exploring all options, including the possibility of asking NRG to keep the unit in operation until upgrades are in place.
PJM’s analysis also showed that wholesale electricity prices associated with the Indian River 4 deactivation appear to remain relatively unchanged as long as the appropriate transmission system upgrades are completed and other factors remain constant.
Shields emphasized that PJM’s process has successfully allowed more than 40,000 megawatts of generation to be retired over the last decade without posing a threat to reliability.
In past years, Indian River plant owner NRG shut down other units at Indian River while retaining the current generator, which underwent a $360 million upgrade that included pollution reducing scrubbers.
News of the power plant closing came around the same time that expansion plans were announced for offshore wind power projects off the southern Delaware coast and near Ocean City, MD.
There has been speculation that offshore electric transmission lines would end up going to the Indian River site.
An earlier plan to bring electric lines from Ørsted’s Skipjack wind farm into a portion of Fenwick Island State Park on the southern edge of Delaware was shelved after environmental issues surfaced. No alternate site has been announced.