Revamped El Centro 3 starts operation in California

As expected, the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) has completed its repowering project for El Centro Unit 3, bringing the revamped 140-MW gas plant into commercial operation.

IID said in an Oct. 9 news release that it had completed the repowering. The project deployment had been delayed because of some equipment problems, IID told GenerationHub in September.

Despite the setback, the $250m project remains within budget.

The repowered unit will increase IID’s generation capacity by 100 MW, improve overall system reliability and boost fuel efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the district utility.

The repowering project consisted of replacing major components of a Combustion Engineering boiler, which had been in operation since 1957, and a Westinghouse steam turbine generator at the El Centro station in El Centro, Calif.

Both were replaced with a natural gas-fired, combined-cycle system consisting of two combustion turbine generators, two heat recovery steam generators and a steam turbine generator.

The new unit is equipped with best available control technology (BACT) to manage air pollutant emissions, will consume one third of the water, on a per-MW basis, and be 45% more fuel efficient than its predecessor, IID said.

“Now that El Centro Unit 3 has been placed into commercial operation, it will save approximately $1 million a month in fuel costs relative to other natural gas units the district utilizes to generate power,” said Henyrk Olstowski, IID assistant energy manager in charge of generation.

The project’s in-service date was delayed due to a failure during testing that caused damage to the entire turbine core. The original turbine was returned to Sweden and replaced with a new core. A full report is expected to come forward on the cause and extent of the damage, IID said.

Olstowski emphasized that the type of failure Unit 3 suffered is rare, and that it occurred before Siemens turned control of the unit to the IID. The IID has a one-year warranty on equipment and is fully insured.

In other generation developments, IID said that its renewable power level has grown from 9% in 2011 and it expects to easily meet the state’s 20% renewable standard in 2012.

California law requires publically-owned utilities to average 20% in renewable energy sources during the first compliance period, which is years 2011, 2012 and 2013. The requirements ramp up to 25% by 2016 and 33% by 2020.

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