With continued uncertainty over whether a large nuclear generation plant will ever return to service, Southern California Edison Co. (SCE) officials on Friday said summer power supplies will be adequate throughout Southern California. Up to three new or upgraded natural gas-fired plants in the region. totaling more than 1,800 MW, are due to start operations by the end of summer, they said
Echoing a recent summer outlook by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), SCE’s Charley Wilson told NGI Friday “there are sufficient system-wide resources to cover all of the adequacy requirements, so long as the transmission lines and large generation resources remain available.”
State and utility officials for a second consecutive summer are scrambling to make up for the 2,200 MW of capacity that sits idle at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations (SONGS) in San Diego County. With a nearly 80% ownership interest in the plant, SCE is the operator of SONGS. Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas and Electric Co. holds 20% ownership in the plant.
SONGS is the largest baseload source of electric generation in Southern California, but the utility and federal regulators have had both its units shut down since January 2012 because of unusual wear on tubing at the units’ four steam generators (see Daily GPI, May 22; March 26).
“The reality now is that we have to plan for SONGS not being there, and the question becomes how do you replace those 2,200 MW,” Wilson said. “How do you keep the voltage up in a high-load, very important area such as Orange county?” Other than SONGS, there is no baseload electric generation in Orange County.
The three new and upgraded gas-fired plants are located in areas surrounding but not in Orange County: the repowered NRG Energy Inc. El Segundo plant (560 MW) in coastal Los Angeles County; the Walnut Creek peaking plant (500 MW) in the City of Industry in Los Angeles County 40 miles inland; and the 800 MW CPV Sentinel peaking plant in the Coachella Valley in Riverside County, about 50 miles north of SONGS.
“Each of these plants supply new capacity, but they don’t supply the type of voltage support in Orange County that is necessary, and both SONGS or [the now idle] Huntington Beach gas-fired generation plant units would have provided when they were running,” Wilson said.
“Realistically, one of the questions that has to be answered [longer term] even with high-efficiency gas-fired baseload units, involves the fact that you still have to get air quality permits from the SCAQMD [South Coast Air Quality Management District].”
All of the new plants are available currently, Wilson said, but the SCE contracts don’t begin to kick in until August. In the meantime, in a pinch, CAISO could call on one or all them for supplies in a high peak-load situation. “The plants are in final testing, and everything is ready to go from what I have heard,” he said.
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