The first of two 800-MW units at Luminant’s new Oak Grove Power Plant in Robertson County, Texas, is now online, the Dallas-based company said on Monday. The coal-fired unit is the second Luminant has entered into service in Texas in the past six months. 

Oak Grove Unit 2 is scheduled for completion in mid-2010. This September, the company began operating the 581-MW Sandow 5 unit in Milam County, Texas, a plant that uses circulating fluidized bed technology and burns Texas lignite coal. Combined, the two Oak Grove units and Sandow 5 are expected to cost up to $3.25 billion.

Luminant said in a statement that Oak Grove Units 1 and 2 would have lower emission rates than any existing lignite plant in the state and at least 70% lower than the national coal plant average.

“In addition to environmental control equipment that will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, Oak Grove is also the nation’s first pulverized coal plant fueled by lignite to utilize new activated carbon sorbent injection technology to remove mercury,” it said, adding that details about these controls were available in a newly released corporate environmental review (PDF).

“Achieving this critical step signals the end of construction and the beginning of Luminant’s operation of another significant source of baseload generation for Texas,” said Mike Williams, chief fossil officer.

News of Oak Grove Unit 1’s commissioning follows approval by the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) of air permits for NRG Energy’s proposed 744-MW pulverized coal unit at its Limestone Electric generating near Jewett, Texas.

At least two more coal units are expected to enter service in Texas in 2010, including Oak Grove 2 and a unit at CPS Energy’s Spruce plant.

Last week, as POWERnews reported, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) announced that Texas had added some 3,140 MW of new generation capacity since May. About 1,690 MW of that new capacity was from new coal plants while 1,093 MW was from natural gas plants.

According to the grid operator for 75% for the state, almost half of Texas power plants burn natural gas as a primary fuel. Another 20% are fueled by oil and gas, while 18% are coal-fired.

Sources: Luminant, TCEQ, POWERnews, ERCOT