Combined Cycle

Sunlaw pulls California power plant after referendum

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Mar. 8, 2001—Winning approval for new electric power plants continues to be a problem in electricity short California.

In a blow to California Gov. Gray Davis’s hopes of speeding up power plant construction, Sunlaw Energy Corp. Wednesday asked state regulators to suspend licensing for the proposed 550 MW Nueva Azalea electric generating station.

Despite blackouts in northern California in January and predictions of possible widespread power shortages this summer, voters in the city of Southgate, a Los Angeles suburb, opposed the project in a Tuesday referendum. Sunlaw proposed locating the project on a 13.5-acre site in Southgate at the eastern edge of the city limits.

Sunlaw’s formal request for suspension will be heard Apr. 3 by the California Energy Commission, which licenses power plants. The proposed $256 million combined cycle gas-fired power plant and its ancillary facilities, owned by Sunlaw Cogeneration Partners, would have produced electricity to be sold through direct sales agreements and in the California spot market.

The Nueva Azalea project would have contained two power “islands,” an electrical switchyard, administrative buildings, chemical storage areas, cooling towers, and other support facilities. Natural gas for the project was scheduled to be supplied by a new one-mile long pipeline.

Its cooling towers would have used reclaimed water and groundwater. Sunlaw also proposed to install 1,000 ft of 230 kv transmission lines with an interconnect at the Southern California Edison Co. substation.

If approved, the company had planned to begin construction late this year and start operation of the combined cycle unit in June 2003. The CEC unanimously voted to begin formal review of the project in August 2000.

Much of California’s power problems have been traced to demand outstripping supply. In the 1990s before the state’s electricity generation industry was restructured, the CEC certified 12 power plants. Of these, three were never built.

Restructuring occurred in March 1998. Since April 1999, the CEC has approved 10 major projects with a combined generation capacity of 6,324 MW. Six power plants, with a generation capacity of 4,308 MW are under construction, with 2,363 MW expected to be on line by the end of the year.

In addition, another 15 electricity generating projects, totaling 7,083 MW of generation and an estimated capital investment of about $5 billion, are currently being considered for licensing by the commission.