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Entergy’s floating power plant proposal for storm backup comes with risk, cost concerns

A rendering of Entergy Louisiana’s proposed Bayou Power Station, which the company wants to place near Leeville in order to provide backup power to Port Fourchon, Grand Isle and communities along lower Bayou Lafourche.
Entergy Louisiana
A rendering of Entergy Louisiana’s proposed Bayou Power Station, which the company wants to place near Leeville in order to provide backup power to Port Fourchon, Grand Isle and communities along lower Bayou Lafourche.

This report was first published by Floodlight, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates the powerful interests stalling climate action.

To make south Louisiana’s oil and gas infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather, Entergy Louisiana wants to build a $441 million natural gas power plant at the mouth of Bayou Lafourche.

“This Project will directly address critical oil and gas customers in the system at Port Fourchon,” Entergy’s filing with the Louisiana Public Service Commission said. “The interconnection of the Project will add a resilient power source to the [Entergy Louisiana] grid and enable storm restoration options, following a significant weather event, owing to the inherent black-start capability of the Project.”

The promises being made mirror those its sister company, Entergy New Orleans, used to convince the New Orleans City Council to approve a 128-megawatt natural gas plant in eastern New Orleans that came online in 2020. Entergy New Orleans said the $210 million plant come online quickly after a storm to provide the city with power.

But that didn’t happen. After Hurricane Ida struck in August 2021, the entire city went dark, and it took almost three days for the New Orleans gas plant to become operational. The utility said using the plant’s quick-start capability wasn’t the safest way to restore power to the city.

Entergy Louisiana says its proposed 112-megawatt Bayou Power Station could disconnect from the grid and use the plant’s power to provide electricity to 7,000 residential, industrial and commercial including Port Fourchon the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, and residents in Golden Meadow, Leeville and Grand Isle.

“And so the question now is why should the Louisiana Public Service Commission approve [Bayou Power Station] seeing what happened only a handful of years ago,” asked Logan Atkinson Burke, executive director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, noting the Bayou Power Station will cost twice as much as the New Orleans plant and produce less electricity.

The power generation portion of the project is estimated at $374.3 million, or roughly $3,318 per kilowatt, an amount twice as much as most other power generation costs, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. If the Public Service Commission approves the plant, the costs will trickle down to all Entergy Louisiana’s 1.1 million customers through increased rates and charges.

Entergy is scheduled to present the plan Wednesday to PSC members and ask them to decide on the plant within 120 days. Among other things, Entergy’s proposal asks the PSC for permission to bypass the competitive bid process and hand the contract to its preselected contractor, Grand Isle Shipyards.

“An RFP (request for proposals) wouldn’t have produced a more qualified vendor at a better cost,” said David Freese, a spokesman for Entergy Louisiana. The plant would be built at the company’s shipyard and moved to Leeville for installation.

In its filing, Entergy says the plant is necessary because in 2020, Hurricane Zeta took out a major transmission line serving the area. The company says the plant would be cheaper than building a new transmission line, and that it would not be “prudent or economic” to buy power on the open market. The company did not provide a cost figure for replacement of its downed transmission line in its filing with the Public Service Commission.

Before it narrowed its options, Entergy also considered combined-cycle gas turbines, solar and simple-cycle combustion turbines, Freese said. Offshore wind was not considered because of the costs of building a transmission line to the offshore turbines, the intermittent nature of wind and the potential impact of hurricanes on those turbines, he said.

Coastal researcher Alex Kolker, an associate professor at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium who specializes in oceanography, geology and climate science, said the region is prone to storms and extreme weather that is being made more intense by climate change.

Burke, one of Louisiana’s leading consumer advocates in the utilities sector, said it appears that the utility is doubling down on its reliance on fossil fuels, ignoring the inherent risks.

“It’s very clear that we are in a loop of irony at this point where the hotter it gets, the more water there is, and the less land there is as a result of oil and gas extraction, all while Louisiana is so interconnected to those international oil and gas systems,” Atkinson Burke said. ”So we ‘need’ to build something that is incredibly vulnerable in a place that is vulnerable because of oil and gas.”