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Reusing land: Modernizing a generation fleet in small footprints

Issue 5 and Volume 118.

Justin Martino   By Justin Martino, J.D., associate editor

As utilities work to modernize their fleets and retire older, less efficient resources, many are turning to building new plants – but on land formerly occupied by older plants.

Reusing land has several benefits for companies. When Chugach Electric Association decided to build a new plant in Anchorage, Alaska, the company decided to build on the site of an existing plant. The new plant, Southcentral Power Project, is the most efficient natural gas plant in the state.

“One notable advantage for the site is it was purchased in the early ’60s, and a power plant had been here since the mid-’60s,” Chugach Electric Association Senior Vice President of Power Supply Paul Risse said. “A lot of people didn’t even know that.”

NV Energy's Edward W. Clark Generating Station
NV Energy’s Edward W. Clark Generating Station is located in the middle of Las Vegas and presented unique challenges during its modernization.

Often, companies are replacing power plants that are located inside cities in small footprints, as was the case with the Southcentral power plant. New gas plants, with low emissions and quiet operation, can be ideal for siting in areas many people wouldn’t consider ideal for power plants.

Putting a power plant in the middle of the city comes with complications, however, and companies have been careful to work with residents to be part of the community. Risse said Chugach attended multiple community meetings to discuss what the company was doing with its new plant and getting feedback from the neighborhood residents. The company also worked to not create a disruption with its construction.

NV Energy took a similar approach when it modernized the Edward W. Clark Generating Station in Las Vegas. The utility doubled the generation of the facility while cutting emissions by half, and worked closely with the community during the project.

The 1100-MW power plant uses a low-NOx combustion system and can put 600 MW on the system within 10 minutes, letting NV Energy make a significant upgrade to its generation fleet without requiring any additional land.

NV Energy Generation Executive Dariusz Rekowski said the company did not use explosives during the demolition of the old plant in order to avoid noise pollutions and managed to bring in 24 turbines in 12 blocks without major traffic interruptions or complaints from its neighbors.

“That was a very big challenge to construct the plant in the middle of town,” he said.

Siting also posed difficulties during the construction of NRG Energy’s El Segundo Power Plant in El Segundo, Calif. The company and Siemens added two units to the power plant, located on the beach, and began commercial operation of the units on Aug. 1, 2013.

The El Segundo site is located between a cliff and the Pacific Ocean, and the new units were being built at the same time the facility was being operated. The company had to find solutions to work around the small footprint, and even considered bring in equipment by beach landing. The plant’s design enables the use of air-cooled heat exchangers, which are smaller than conventional air-cooled condensers and enabled the plant to fit into a much smaller space.

The El Segundo repowering project also serves as another example of a company working with the local community to be as inconspicuous as possible. The plant has a low profile, is and put up a custom-designed sea wall to separate the plant from the busy beach located next door.

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