In the midst of this week’s power alerts exacerbated byCalifornia’s shortage of electric generating capacity, theSacramento Municipal Utility District drew only three responses toa proposal put out for bids early in the summer to have a developerbuild, own and operate a natural gas-fired 500 to 1,000 MWgeneration plant on part of a 2,000-acre site owned by the nation’slargest municipal utility. The earliest the plant would beoperational would be in 2004.

The three bidders are: San Jose, CA-based Calpine Corp., one ofthe state’s and nation’s most aggressive merchant power plantdevelopers; a unit of Florida Power and Light; and a groupinvolving El Paso Merchant Energy, Aquila Energy, Nashville,TN-based consultant, Endeco, and a Sacramento consulting firm, TSSConsultants, 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 Iwouldn’t be at liberty to disclose anything about pricing untilafter the evaluation is complete,” said John Bell, the engineer incharge of the bidding program who said he was expecting at least”five or six” proposals based on what power plant developers hadindicated to him.

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

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

Electric transmission lines are less than a mile from theproposed new gas-fired generation plant site. Natural gas tie-incould be done by connecting with nearby Pacific Gas and ElectricCo. transmission pipelines or by running a pipeline lateral about20 miles to a SMUD gas transmission line feeding several largecogeneration plants.

“There is plenty of acreage,” Bell said. “There are two proposedlocations in our RFP, each about 30 to 40 acres apiece. They couldcome in with proposals to use it all. (A 500-MW plant on each ofthe two sites within the larger acreage.)

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

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