San Diego cool to plans for Quail Brush power plant

The city of San Diego evidently isn’t crazy about Cogentrix Energy’s plan to build a 100-MW natural gas peaking plant on a site currently designated as “open space.”

California newspapers reported Sept. 25 that the San Diego City Council voted against rezoning a parcel of land for the Quail Brush power project. In July the local Planning Commission had voted against the plant’s zoning request, according to the City Council agenda posted online.

The California Energy Commission has a public workshop on the power plant proposal scheduled Oct. 3 at Grossmont College in El Cajon, Calif. A CEC website indicates that commission staff is expected to issue its final assessment of the Quail Brush project in late November.

A Cogentrix subsidiary applied to the CEC in August 2011 to build the 100-MW peaking facility on a 22-acre site that is currently designated for open space.

A Cogentrix website indicates that Quail Brush would be a peaking unit designed to power up quickly in times of need and also to fill in the gaps when intermittent renewable resources are not available.

The Quail Brush Generation Project is the result of the San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) 2009 competitive request for offers (RFO). A power purchase agreement has been signed by both the Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE) subsidiary and Quail Brush Genco LLC, and is currently before the California Public Utilities Commission for approval.

Quail Brush has hoped to get its approvals by San Diego and the CEC by early 2013. The zoning commission decision could complicate things, however. The company has said that it hopes to start construction in 2013 and begin commercial operation in 2014.

The project will be located on about 10 acres north of Route 52 off of Sycamore Landfill Road in the city of San Diego. The site was selected in part because of its proximity to existing electric transmission corridors and an existing natural gas pipeline.

It is, however, located less than a mile from West Hills High School.

Cogentrix plant faces organized opposition

The plant is being opposed by Save Mission Trails, a local group that notes that the power plant will be very close to the Mission Trails Park and the high school. The project is also opposed by Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif.

“We are talking about toxic air emissions, habitat loss for endangered species, noise and visual degradation, and decreased water quality,” Filner said on his website. “If this project goes forward it will have a detrimental impact not just on this generation, but generations to come.”

The Quail Brush Generation Project will produce electricity through the use of 11 Wärtsilä reciprocating engine generator sets.

While there is no appeal available to the City Council vote, a Quail Brush spokesperson said the company is committed to winning approval from the CEC. Both Cogentrix and SDG&E believe there is a significant need for this type of generation in the San Diego area, the official said. The estimated capaital cost of the project is $150m, the official told GenerationHub.

The Carlyle Group (NASDAQ: CG) announced earlier in September that its infrastructure fund has agreed to acquire North Carolina-based Cogentrix from Goldman Sachs Group (NYSE: GS).


About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at