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Model Power Plant Eyed in California

Model Power Plant Eyed in California

With the pressure of an exhaustive state regulatory review and scrutiny of its neighbors, San Jose, CA-based Calpine Corp. says it is prepared to spend whatever it takes to make a 600 MW natural gas-fired merchant power plant in its headquarters city a "model" for efficiency and environmental cleanliness among its growing fleet of gas-fired power plants nationally.

Not coincidentally, the outset of the state regulatory review leading to approval of the $300-$400 million facility begins later this month. Calpine announced May 30 it is prepared to go to extra expense to cut the proposed plant's nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions to record low levels.

The Metcalf Energy Center on a 14-acre site within the city of San Jose will have NOx reduced by 33% from levels already approved by the local air quality district, which would make it the lowest such emissions for a California-licensed power plant, according to Calpine's calculations. Metcalf is one of four San Francisco Bay area power plants proposed jointly with international engineering/constructor Bechtel Enterprises and Calpine.

The added reductions are being achieved by a new design configuration for the plant, according to Calpine's Curt Hildebrand, Metcalf project director.

He added that the "concerns in the community" caused Calpine and Bechtel to explore new options

"This will show that we are making continuous improvements to the air quality side of the equation," said Bill Highlander, a Calpine vice president. "We want to make this a showcase project, so we kept trying to find ways to make this as good as we possibly can - even from the visual impact of it. We're spending a lot of money trying to make it look different than a power plant in some other (more remote) location. We trying to make it the best looking, cleanest plant in the country because in is right here in our hometown."

The proposal is in the early stages of what is usually a yearlong process for gaining approval from the California Energy Commission (CEC), which will hold a series of public hearings.

Richard Nemec, Los Angeles

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