CEC starts review of much-debated Redondo Beach gas plant

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has started review of a proposed 496-MW natural gas power plant that an AES (NYSE:AES) subsidiary plans to build in Los Angeles County.

The Energy Commission voted Aug. 27 to accept the application for certification for the much-debated Redondo Beach energy project as “data adequate,” the CEC said in a news release.

AES submitted its CEC application in late 2012 to tear down much of the existing Redondo Beach power plant facility and replace it with a more modern combined-cycle station. The proposal has drawn much local opposition from people who don’t want to see a new plant built along the California coastline.

The project narrowly survived an anti-power plant ballot measure this spring.  Plant supporters, on the other hand, have pointed to its potential to help support increased renewable energy to saying it could help compensation for retirement of the Edison International (NYSE:EIX) San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).

Data adequacy means the commission received enough information from the applicant to begin the discovery and analysis phases of the site certification process. The applicant for the project is AES Southland Development, a wholly owned subsidiary of AES.

Commissioner Karen Douglas was named the presiding member of the committee reviewing the project. Commissioner Janea A. Scott as the associate committee member, the CEC said.

The committee will make sure that the project meets CEC siting regulations, as well as those of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to mitigate potential project impacts.

The Redondo Beach Energy Project is a proposed natural gas-fired, combined-cycle facility located southeast of the intersection of North Harbor Drive and Herondo Street in Redondo Beach.

The new facility would replace the existing Redondo Beach Generating Station, which relies on 1950’s technology, with a modern, more efficient plant that would utilize about 25% of the existing power plant site.

Importantly, the proposed project would use dry-cooling to reduce water use and comply with the State Water Resources Control Board’s policy eliminating the use of ocean water for power plant cooling.

The project would be constructed on approximately 13 acres of the 50 acres of privately owned land within the footprint of the Redondo Beach Generating Station. The proposed facility would replace the Redondo Beach Generating Station, which would be demolished.

If the CEC approves the Redondo Beach Energy Project, construction and demolition activities are scheduled to last from January 2016 until December 2020. The estimated capital cost for the project would be $500m.

The project would average 149 workers during the construction and demolition phases, with 338 workers at the peak. The 21 operational employees will be drawn from existing Redondo Beach plant staff, according to the applicant.

Plant foes say California coast can survive without it

Plant foes, however, are waging a tough fight against the facility. The City of Redondo Beach, which would host the new plant, filed a document Aug. 27 saying the application was not data adequate. Among other things, the city argues that CEC has not suitably considered other alternatives, including the “no project alternative.”

Also on Aug. 27, a group called Building a Better Redondo, also filed a document opposing the plant. “Multiple reports and analyses support the conclusion that power from the Redondo site is no longer required for grid reliability even without SONGS,” the organization said. The plant site is surrounded by incompatible uses and there is no method to reasonably “hide” the new plant, the organization said.

The Building a Better Redondo group also said the new plant is bound to operate significantly more than the existing one.

The docket number for the Redondo Beach case is 12-AFC-03.

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 wayneb@pennwell.com.