California energy officials on Wednesday gave the green light to AES Corp.’s plans to replace its old, inefficient natural gas-fired generation complex at Huntington Beach with a state of the art 939 MW gas-fired plant.

The replacement of the generation units on a smaller footprint along the beach community about 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles will be done in phases over a number of years with the first new unit due to come online in about 30 months, according to the California Energy Commission (CEC), whose five members unanimously approved AES’s long-standing plans.

In a special business meeting in Sacramento, the CEC accepted a revised presiding member’s proposed decision from Oct. 9 and some last-minute corrections to the proposed decision.

The presiding member found the replacement project “will, as mitigated, have no significant impacts on the environment and will comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations and standards.”

The project is part of a 10-year plan that Virginia-based AES unveiled two years ago for repowering all of its coastal generation plants in Southern California (see Daily GPI, Sept. 28, 2012).

AES Southland Development LLC’s plant is about 35 miles north of the now closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), making long-term maintenance of a baseload generating source in the Orange-San Diego Counties load center essential, state energy planners have emphasized for a number of years.

CEC members said the replacement plant will provide much-needed reliable local generation and help promote the integration of more renewable sources of power into California’s electricity system. It also will be more environmentally sound than the existing plant.

The new facility will reduce pollutants for each MWh generated, using air-cooled condensers instead of once-through seawater cooling now used but being phased out by state and federal rules (see NGI, May 10, 2010).

Approval of the Huntington Beach replacement comes more than two years after AES submitted an application to the state. The CEC said that during peak construction and demolition there will be 236 workers, and when completed, the new plant will have 33 permanent employees.