California regulators recommend approval of 1,040 MW gas plant from AES

Dive Brief:

  • Two members of the five-member California Energy Commission have recommended approval of AES Corp.’s 1,040 MW gas-fired power plant in Long Beach. A final vote on the project could come in mid-April.

  • Commission members Karen Douglas and Janea Scott verified that the project, Alamitos Energy Center, meets the state’s environmental, legal and safety requirements. The combined-cycle plant would be built on the site of AES’ existing Alamitos plant and is slated for operation in 2021.

  • Separately, AES has proposed a 300 MW storage project adjacent to the Alamitos project site that would begin construction in 2019 and is slated for operation in late 2020. The CEC did not evaluate that project in its proposed decision on the gas plant.

Dive Insight:

California is beefing up its grid resources in response to several challenges.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station closed in 2013, the Aliso Canyon methane leaks jeopardized generation capacity in Southern California last year, and consumers continue to deploy distributed solar, increasing the need for flexible generation. 

On top of that, new rules about once through cooling could result in the closure of more than 2,000 MW of coastal power plants, including the Diablo Canyon nuclear facility.

AES’ new Alamitos gas plant would be air cooled, avoiding once through restrictions, which limit the intake of water to cool power plants as a way of protecting marine life.

The Alamitos plant would use two General Electric 7FA.05 combustion turbine generators with two heat recovery steam generators, one steam turbine generator, an air cooled condenser, and an auxiliary boiler. The GE equipment uses fast-start, flexible technology.

In combined-cycle mode, the plant would operate at 56% efficiency and in simple cycle mode at 41% efficiency, according to the CEC.

Environmental groups have opposed approval of the Alamitos project and other natural gas plants planned for Southern California, saying utilities should instead deploy renewables, storage or energy efficiency measures instead of carbon-emitting generation. 

In the proposed decision, commissioners wrote that the plant will replace less efficient gas generation, meaning it will “reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity system,” and help integrate more renewable energy.

When AES’ separate but adjacent battery storage project is implemented, it would help provide voltage regulation and other ancillary grid services and obviate the need to fire up the generators.

The proposed decision does not authorize AES to build the plant, but is an indication of regulatory sentiment on the project. The earliest date that the full CEC will be able to vote on the project is April 12.

Article source: