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Approval of California NatGas Power Plant Recommended

As an outgrowth of a phased-in statewide closure of coastal water-cooled power plants, a California Energy Commission (CEC) member on Thursday recommended approval of a natural gas-fired generation project by AES Southland Development LLC.

AES's Alamitos Energy Center in Long Beach, CA, was recommended for approval of a 1,040 MW gas-fired combined cycle and simple-cycle air-cooled generation facility by CEC Commissioner Karen Douglas as part of a presiding member's proposed decision. The full five-member CEC will take up the proposed new power facility later this year.

Douglas and a fellow CEC member, Janea Scott, earlier this month concluded that the AES plans for the Alamitos site would have “no significant impact on the environment and will comply with applicable laws, ordinances, regulations and standards." AES originally submitted its request for approval of the facility in 2015.

The plant, which would not use seawater for cooling, would be sited on 21 acres at the 71-acre Alamitos site occupied by a 1950s-era gas/oil steam turbine plant with a 1,950 MW capacity. The facility uses the "once-through cooling," which theCalifornia Water Resources Control Board is phasing out of use.

Last year, California regulators approved the replacementof a coastal gas-fired baseload power plant with gas-fired peaking units in Carlsbad, CA, as a statewide ban on seawater cooling for coastal plants continued to draw closer.

Since the seawater cooling ban was established five years ago, Virginia-based AES developed plans to repower and transform its sites along the Southern California coast over a 10-year period, but the effort has stirred up concerns among residents in nearby beachfront communities.

At Alamitos, AES originally planned to modernize the facilities but later changed that to building a new facility with a smaller footprint on part of the site.

In making the proposed decision, Douglas and Scott emphasized that their action is not a final decision. The full CEC will take up the proposal at its April 12 meeting in Sacramento. Before that, a committee conference by the two assigned commissioners will be held March 1 in Long Beach to gather comments from the general public.

Earlier this month in regard to another proposed new coastal gas-fired power plant before the CEC,three state lawmakers urged the power plant siting commission to reconsider the need for new gas-fired peaking generation units in Oxnard, CA, 50 miles west of Los Angeles, to replace some obsolete gas-fired baseload units. The Puente Power Plant is a project proposed by independent power producer NRG Energy Inc., which has a contract to supply peaking power to Southern California Edison Co.

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