Calpine grows its California natural gas power fleet

Calpine (NYSE:CPN) has flipped the switch on two new or upgraded combined-cycle natural gas plants in California that will both sell power to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

The deployment of Calpine’s Russell City Energy Center and Los Esteros Critical Energy Facility, both located in the San Francisco Bay area, brings online more than 900 MW of generating capacity.

In addition to buying the electricity, the PG&E (NYSE:PCG) subsidiary will supply the natural gas under a 10-year contract, Calpine said. Aug. 13.

“Bringing this new capacity on-line demonstrates Calpine’s continued commitment to helping meet the power needs of our customers and, importantly, to helping ensure the grid’s reliability by producing flexible, natural gas-fired capacity so critical to the challenges posed by integration of intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar, “ Calpine CEO Jack Fusco said in a statement.

“We are particularly proud of the environmental attributes of these facilities, with Russell City being the nation’s first power plant to volunteer to accept a permit with a limit on greenhouse gas emissions,” Fusco said. “In addition, the two plants together will use up to 6 million gallons of recycled wastewater from the local municipalities that would otherwise be discharged into the San Francisco Bay.”

The 619-MW Russell City project is located in Hayward, Calif. Calpine owns 75% of the project, or 464 megawatts of dispatchable capacity, and General Electric (NYSE:GE) unit GE Energy Financial Services owns the balance. Approximately 650 local union workers were employed during peak construction at Russell City, and the plant now employs 30 full-time operations staff.

Located in San Jose, the Los Esteros Critical Energy Facility first began commercial operations in March 2003 as a 188-MW peaking power plant. The plant has now been upgraded to a combined-cycle facility capable of generating up to 309 MW, Calpine said.

Construction at Los Esteros employed approximately 300 local union workers at its peak. With the plant now commercially operational, 19 employees work on site full time, and another four serve Los Esteros in addition to other nearby Calpine plants.

“These additions bring our total to 37 power plants in California with the capacity to generate more than 6,300 megawatts, including over 5,600 megawatts of natural gas-fired generation and 725 megawatts of renewable, baseload geothermal capacity at The Geysers,” Fusco said.

On the East Coast, Calpine broke ground in June on the planned 309-MW Garrison natural gas power plant in Delaware.

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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