California agency to bow out of Reid Gardner coal plant in 2013

The California Department of Water Resources, under pressure to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, said June 11 that it has released a plan to dramatically curtail those emissions, including termination of a contract to take power from the coal-fired Reid Gardner power plant.

The plan, approved recently by DWR Director Mark Cowin, shows how the department can cut release of gases linked to global warming by 50% below 1990 levels within the next seven years. The plan also sets the stage for an 80% emissions reduction by 2050.

DWR operates the 700-mile-long State Water Project, which pumps water from Northern California rivers to the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Southern California cities and Central Valley farms. The department both uses and generates large amounts of electricity in the course of moving water. DWR estimates that its total greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 were nearly 3.5 million tonnes. Measures in the department’s climate action plan include:

  • termination of a contract with the coal-fired Reid Gardner power plant in Nevada that accounts for 30%-50% of the department’s operational emissions;
  • increasing the efficiency of pumps and turbines throughout the State Water Project system with state-of-the-art design, construction, and refurbishing;
  • boosting the proportion of electricity consumed by the State Water Project that comes from renewable and high-efficiency natural gas-fired sources;
  • exploring ways to develop renewable energy on land owned by DWR, such as installing solar panels on land adjacent to pumping plants;
  • changing construction practices to minimize fuel consumption and landfill waste;
  • participating in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District‘s Greenergy program, which will ensure that much of DWR’s office space in Sacramento is powered by renewable sources;
  • and buying 2,580 tonnes of carbon offsets each year of the next decade to fund projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“In total, these measures are expected to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 by more than 1 million metric tons and by more than 2.5 million metric tons in 2050,” said Cowin, who approved the plan on May 24. “These are significant impacts in terms of climate change adaption for California’s benefit.”

DWR’s greenhouse gas reduction plan outlines steps DWR has taken and will take to reduce its emissions consistent with the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) and Executive Order S-3-05, which establish emissions reduction targets for the state of California, and with DWR’s Sustainability Policy and Targets. The plan was provided to other state agencies, the State Water Project contractors and the public for review and comment through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process.

Since 1979, DWR has held a partial interest in Unit 4 of Reid Gardner, which currently supplies up to 235 MW of capacity to the State Water Project. DWR said it has committed to divesting its interest in Reid Gardner Unit 4. DWR plans to cease receiving electricity from the power station in July 2013. This action is consistent with the AB 32 Scoping Plan, which references the expiration of Reid Gardner and other coal power plant contracts and replacement with less-GHG emitting sources as a strategy to reduce coal-based power generation by approximately 10,000 GWh by 2020.

The NV Energy (NYSE: NVE) website said that Reid Gardner is a coal-fueled, steam-electric plant with four operating units. The first two nearly identical units went into service in 1965 and 1968. A third, similar unit was added in 1976. Each of those units produces 100 MW with Foster Wheeler boilers and GE turbine-generators. The plant’s fourth and largest unit is jointly owned by NV Energy and DWR. This 257-MW unit was commissioned in 1983 and uses a Foster Wheeler boiler to drive a Westinghouse turbine generator.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.