- The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) gave unanimous approval to Southern California Edison (SCE) to move forward with its proposed 262 Puente Power Project, a fast-ramping natural gas plant scheduled to replace an existing natural gas plant by 2020.
- California’s 50%-by-2030 renewables mandate is expected to necessitate a build out of such highly flexible gas facilities to balance the demands put on utilities' systems by intermittent wind and solar generation — at least until energy storage or a form of dispatchable renewable generation becomes widely deployed.
- NRG Energy will be the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the new build at the 57-year-old Mandalay plant site. Residents say they will ask the California Energy Commission (CEC) to deny approval and allow the beachfront site to be restored for recreational use.
Though the Aliso Canyon methane leak has raised questions about California's reliance on natural gas in recent months, regulators see a significant role for the resource in supplementing variable wind and solar generation as the state heads toward its 50% renewables mandate by 2050.
Last week, the CPUC approved a new gas peaker for SCE over objections from local residents, who preferred to shutter the existing plant there and restore the beachfront site for public access.
The site near the city of Oxnard currently hosts SCE's 573 MW Mandalay Bay natural gas facility and was chosen in part for the ability to use ocean water to cool the plant. This “once-through” cooling of natural gas power plants, however, will not be allowed in California after 2020 because it has been found to be detrimental to the immediate ocean environment.
Even so, NRG pointed out that building there would allow the use of vacant brownfield land at the existing plant’s site and the use of the existing transmission interconnection, according to the CEC filing.
“P3 will act as a bridge from our current mix of electrical generation to a future that is more heavily reliant on renewable sources,” according to the NRG website. It will have “the ability to come up to full power within minutes should renewable generation slow down and, alternatively, reduce power output when renewable sources are sufficient to meet demand. The facility will also require very little water to operate, making it ideal in drought-constrained scenarios.”
Opponents of the plant criticized the approval, with Oxnard Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez saying the regulators should have put off a decision until an environmental justice review could be completed.
"We've done our part," she said, according to Public News Service. "And it's time for the Public Utilities Commission to get off fossil fuel, to treat minority communities such as ours fairly, to share the burden and not create these 'sacrifice zones' – which is our city."
Critics promised to fight approval at the California Energy Commission, which is expected to rule on the plant later this year.