Emissions, Renewables

California Power Authority to pursue gas peaking, renewable energy plants


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Sept. 18, 2001 — The California state power authority approved plans Monday to go forward with 2,000 Mw of new gas-fired electric peaking capacity and 1,000 Mw of renewable energy projects.

The board agreed to enter into agreements for the gas-fired projects and to negotiate for 1,000 Mw out of 1,800 Mw of proposed renewable energy projects. The capacity is expected to be on line by summer 2002.

The state got into the electricity business, creating the California Consumer Power and Conservation Financing Authority in June, after experiencing rolling blackouts this past winter. The state’s power grid has operated with less than a 15% reserve margin, with demand coming close to outstripping available generation for the past 2 years.

No new power plants were built in the state for a decade until the state began experiencing outages. To avert shortages, Gov. Gray Davis streamlined the approval process for new power plants.

The authority’s goal is to own power plants to insure adequate supply is available and avoid paying too much power. “If the authority owned several thousand megawatts of resources for reserves, these services could be had for half the current cost,” it said.

The state power agency has received more than 60 proposals to build natural gas-fired peaking units. The gas-fired peakers are required to satisfy electricity demand when intermittent renewable power sources such solar or wind cannot produce.

“We have begun to review proposals submitted by both renewable energy and gas-fired peaker developers. We must recognize the need to provide energy to the state that is not only clean but reliable as well,” said board member Sunne McPeak.

Fourteen letters of intent have been signed for construction of the renewable power plants, mostly wind and biofuel. The authority placed a draft of the request for bids on its web site for public review and comment for microturbines, solar photovoltaic, and fuel cell projects.