As special power conservation alerts were being issued across the state, the California Energy Commission (CEC) voted Wednesday to accept an application to begin review for a proposed 850 MW natural gas peaking power plant to be built in the desert in Riverside County near Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs. If constructed the plant would be called into service during heat waves such as those in the last few days which strain the state’s power delivery capacity.

By a vote of 4-0, the commission accepted the CPV Sentinel Energy Project as data adequate, meaning it has enough information to begin a year long licensing process. The simple-cycle plant, sponsored by Competitive Power Ventures Inc., is projected to cost $440 million. It would be built over an 18-month period on a site adjacent to a Southern California Edison substation. Targeted startup for the eight turbines is the first half of 2010.

Southern California Edison has agreed to buy the power generated by five of the turbine units, with other load-serving entities expected to procure the power produced by the three remaining units.

Throughout the project’s 12-month licensing process, the Energy Commission will conduct public workshops and hearings to determine whether the facility should be approved for construction and operation and under what set of conditions.

Eighteen power plant projects are active in the CEC’s review process, representing 6,654 MW.

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