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LCRA ready to consider Ferguson Plant replacement

Video: Watch it on the 4-26-10 newcast on

HORSESHOE BAY —The 36-year-old Thomas C. Ferguson power plant — which supplies the energy needs of several Highland Lakes cities — could be replaced in just a few years with a more environmentally friendly plant next door, officials said Monday.

IN PHOTO: The Lower Colorado River Authority announced Monday it is studying a plan to replace the 36-year-old Thomas C. Ferguson power plant in Horseshoe Bay with an environmentally friendly facility. Area public hearings are planned for May and June. Courtesy photo

The Lower Colorado River Authority, which oversees the plant on Lake LBJ, will hold four area public hearings to discuss a study that’s just been launched to determine the viability of replacing the facility.

"The study will ask whether it makes sense to replace the old (Ferguson) plant with a newer, more economical, more environmentally friendly plant next to it," LCRA spokeswoman Claire Tuma said Monday.

The Llano County facility, built in 1974, is on the western edge of Horseshoe Bay and nine miles west of Marble Falls.

"As Ferguson ages, it makes sense to consider replacing it with a new plant that is cleaner, more efficient and cost-effective," LCRA General Manager Tom Mason said.

The Ferguson plant consumes natural gas to generate electricity for 100,000 homes in Cottonwood Shores, Granite Shoals, Highland Haven, Horseshoe Bay, Meadowlakes, Sunrise Beach and several other municipalities.

However, a new plant fed by a "combined cycle" of gas and steam may produce fewer emissions and use 40 percent less fuel to generate the same amount of electricity, Tuma said.

State and local officials applauded the prospect of a new plant.

“The Ferguson Power Plant location in the rural Texas Hill Country is important because it helps maintain reliable electric service in a region with limited generation resources,” said state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay. “A newer, more efficient power plant in this location will strengthen LCRA’s ability to provide this much-needed service to the people of Texas.”

Llano County Commissioner Johnnie B. Heck also welcomed the study, noting the Ferguson plant employs about 40 people and contributes about $2.5 million each year to the area economy.

“We welcome the economic benefit that a construction project like this would bring to the area communities,” Heck said.

Horseshoe Bay Mayor Bob Lambert also praised LCRA for its study.

“LCRA has been a good neighbor since it built the Ferguson plant in the 1970s, and I am confident that our good relationship will continue,” said Lambert, also a former LCRA board chairman.

LCRA staff will evaluate options for the Ferguson plant during the next 12 months, officials said.

The LCRA board will review staff recommendations by the spring of 2011.

If the board approves, construction of the new plant could begin by that fall near the current Ferguson plant, which will close after the new plant is completed. It may take about three years to build the new facility, according to officials.

LCRA will hold four open houses next month and in June to inform area residents about the study. The open house schedule includes:

• Horseshoe Bay, 1-3 p.m. May 14, Quail Point Lodge, 107 Twilight.

• Granite Shoals, 6-8 p.m. May 24, Granite Shoals City Hall, 410 N. Phillips Ranch Road.

• Kingsland, 6-8 p.m. June 3, Kingsland Community Center, 3451 Rose Hill Drive.

• Marble Falls, 1-3 p.m. June 10, Lakeside Pavilion, 307 Buena Vista.