FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas — Fire officials are investigating after a fire broke out at a unit at the WA Parish Power Generating Station in Fort Bend County late Sunday night.
A spokesman for NRG Energy said around 5 a.m. that the fire was out and crews were monitoring for hot spots. The fire started just before midnight Sunday.
“When we can safely return to assess the unit, we will begin the process of investigating the cause and the status of the equipment. We do not currently have an estimate for when the unit will return to service,” NRG Director of Communications Pat Hammond said.
The facility is located at 2500 Y.U. Jones Road, which is just south of Greatwood and west of Sienna. It's among the largest in the Houston region.
More than 100 firefighters from 20 agencies, including the Houston Fire Department, helped extinguish the fire.
The spokesman said there are no concerns for residents and that all employees are accounted for.
Flames could be seen coming from a building at the facility. The spokesman identified the building as Unit 8, one of the coal-fueled, steam-powered units at the facility.
After the fire knocked the unit offline, operators called the fire department which led to the multi-agency response. Along with the flames, steam could be heard being released.
Later Monday morning, Air 11 flew over the scene. Soot covered the building, including the roof.
Watch Fort Bend Fire Marshal's Office gives update on damage.
The Fort Bend Fire Marshal's Office said about half of the building was burned.
This facility uses coal and gas to produce power. It's one of America’s largest conventional power plants and it's owned and operated by NRG Energy.
The company said they are working to make sure area residents do not lose power.
“We have a number of plants around Houston and we will be doing what we can to make sure that all of those plants are available to make up for any loss of power from the parish plant,” NRG spokesman David Knox said.
KHOU 11 energy expert Ed Hirs said the plant has a total capacity of 3.6 gigawatts, which is about 5% of what ERCOT expects to have at peak demand this summer.
Hirs said the unit that went offline accounts for about 16% of the plant’s output.
Hirs told KHOU 11 News that while the plant fire was most likely not the direct cause of skyrocketing wholesale energy prices around the Houston area, he believes the situation is symptomatic of the larger issue of a “decaying fleet of generators” statewide.
“ERCOT, in its wisdom, says, ‘Well, that’s supposed to encourage generation companies to build more units and come online.’ But the fact of the matter is, if they do, they’ll just continue to lower prices going forward,” Hirs said. “So, why do more work and earn less revenue when you can squeeze the market and make years of revenue and years of profit in the space of a few days each year?”
Watch aerial view of damage at WA Parish Power Generating Station.
Knox explained that this amounts to the amount of power it would take to power 12,000 homes on a hot day with their ACs on.
“The unit was operating and not on a maintenance outage when the fire occurred,” Knox said.
Knox said that they will enter the unit on Tuesday to see exactly what led to the fire.