California commission approves NRG’s 558-MW Carlsbad project

The California Energy Commission on May 31 approved the construction of a proposed 558-MW natural gas power plant in Carlsbad proposed by Carlsbad Energy Center LLC, an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG).

By a 4-0 vote, the commission adopted the revised presiding member’s proposed decision (PMPD) for the Carlsbad Energy Center Project. The project will be a fast-start high-efficiency, combined-cycle facility that will support San Diego Gas & Electric‘s local load and provide overall system reliability.

“The Carlsbad project will help ensure a reliable supply of electricity in San Diego by meeting a need identified by the California Independent System Operator,” said Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas, the presiding member for the committee reviewing the Carlsbad project. “It will also reduce pollution by displacing electricity generated by other less efficient facilities, further California’s policy to avoid once-through cooling by facilitating retirement of the nearby Encina Power Station, and facilitate the integration of intermittent renewable energy resources such as wind and solar power.”

In the revised PMPD, the committee found that the proposed facility, as mitigated, will have no significant impacts on the environment and complies with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards (LORS) except in the area of land use. The committee also determined that the project’s benefits outweigh the land use impacts and lack of compliance with recently amended Carlsbad land use regulations, a single provision in the state fire code, and possible lack of compliance with the California Coastal Act. The committee recommended that the commission make override findings and approve the project in spite of the impacts and LORS inconsistencies.

Among the requirements placed upon the project is the obligation to plan for and obtain permits for the removal of the existing Encina Power Station equipment, including the 400-foot high exhaust stack. The project developer must carry out those plans when electricity from the equipment is no longer needed to maintain grid reliability and a viable redevelopment plan is approved by the city of Carlsbad.

The project is scheduled to be built on a 23-acre portion of the existing Encina Power Station site in Carlsbad. The applicant plans to retire the existing steam boiler Units 1, 2 and 3 at Encina when the Carlsbad project is operational, which will cut local air emissions and preserve water resources.

The estimated capital cost for the Carlsbad project would exceed $500m. Construction would start during the first quarter of 2014 with commercial operations in the summer of 2016.

On May 22, the California Energy Commission staff released its final analysis recommending the licensing of a proposed 300-MW gas-fired peaking unit that Pio Pico Energy Center, LLC is proposing to build in southwestern San Diego County. That project still needs final commission approval.

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.