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Few Contenders for New CA Generation

Few Contenders for New CA Generation

In the midst of this week's power alerts exacerbated by California's shortage of electric generating capacity, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District drew only three responses to a proposal put out for bids early in the summer to have a developer build, own and operate a natural gas-fired 500 to 1,000 MW generation plant on part of a 2,000-acre site owned by the nation's largest municipal utility. The earliest the plant would be operational would be in 2004.

The three bidders are: San Jose, CA-based Calpine Corp., one of the state's and nation's most aggressive merchant power plant developers; a unit of Florida Power and Light; and a group involving El Paso Merchant Energy, Aquila Energy, Nashville, TN-based consultant, Endeco, and a Sacramento consulting firm, TSS Consultants, according to SMUD officials administering the program. The bids closed at 5 p.m. last Friday.

"I have not opened any of the proposals at this point, and I wouldn't be at liberty to disclose anything about pricing until after the evaluation is complete," said John Bell, the engineer in charge of the bidding program who said he was expecting at least "five or six" proposals based on what power plant developers had indicated to him.

Current plans call for evaluation of the bids and selection of a finalist by Oct. 12; negotiations on the deal between that time and Nov. 15; and development of a final contract for okay by the SMUD board at the end of November, Bell said.

SMUD has proposed using 60 to 80 acres of its 2,000-acre property which originally was marked for development of a now-abandoned nuclear plant 35 miles southeast of the state Capitol. The mothballed nuclear facility uses about 100 acres; parkland, a game refuge and a 3-MW photovoltaic electric generation site are part of the surrounding property.

Electric transmission lines are less than a mile from the proposed new gas-fired generation plant site. Natural gas tie-in could be done by connecting with nearby Pacific Gas and Electric Co. transmission pipelines or by running a pipeline lateral about 20 miles to a SMUD gas transmission line feeding several large cogeneration plants.

"There is plenty of acreage," Bell said. "There are two proposed locations in our RFP, each about 30 to 40 acres apiece. They could come in with proposals to use it all. (A 500-MW plant on each of the two sites within the larger acreage.)

SMUD will contract with the developer/operator for some portion of the new plant's output with the rest being sold on the grid, Bell said.

Richard Nemec, Los Angeles

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