Calpine may get hot, but it also knows how to blow off some steam. The independent power producer and marketer controls 27,490 MW of generating capacity through interests in more than 90 primarily natural gas-fired power plants in 20 US states and Canada. This fleet also includes 15 geothermal power plants in California. Calpine, the leading geothermal power producer in North America, owns 725 MW of capacity at the largest geothermal facility in the US -- the Geysers in northern California, where electricity is produced from natural steam, and which accounts for more than 20% of the state's renewable energy. The company's California and Texas operations account for the great majority of its business.
Calpine sells electricity to utilities, wholesalers, and end-users, primarily through long-term contracts; the firm also trades power on the wholesale market. Other Calpine operations include construction, consulting, and management services; turbine component manufacturing; and critical power provision for high-tech companies.
Gearing up to grow the company's national footprint as the economy began to pick up in 2010, Calpine sold two of its gas-fired power plants to Xcel Energy for $739 million in order to generate cash. The two plants, located near Denver, were already providing power to Public Service Company of Colorado, an Xcel subsidiary, under a contract agreement. It also sold a 25% stake in a Texas power plant to Rayburn Country Electric Cooperative for $215 million.
Also that year the company purchased 4,490 MW of power plants from Pepco Holdings for about $1.7 billion. The acquisition added Conectiv Energy's power plants (18 operating and one under construction) to Calpine's fleet, helping to strengthen its market position in the Eastern US.
Although Calpine had scaled back on new plant development due to low demand -- it had about 1,150 MW under construction in late 2010 -- it has a call option to purchase the 775-MW power plant in Riverside County, California, for the Inland Empire Energy Center. The plant, completed in 2010, is based on General Electric's latest gas turbine technology.
An improving economy and the Connectiv purchase lifted commodity sales in 2010, despite a drag from hedging losses. The company's overall revenues and net income were essentially flat in 2010, following a 34% drop in revenues in 2009 (due to the collapse of commodity prices caused by the global recession).
Cash flow has steadily improved since Calpine emerged from bankruptcy in 2008 (having filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2005). The company disposed of most of its natural gas reserves and gathering and transportation assets in order to focus on power generation.
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