NRG Energy wraps up first phase of El Segundo repowering

NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) said Aug. 2 that it has entered commercial operation at its El Segundo Energy Center, a natural gas–fueled, combined-cycle facility located near Los Angeles, Calif.

The plant produces 550 MW of efficient and flexible electricity to the California grid, NRG noted. The fast-start, rapid response power generation employed by El Segundo delivers more than half of its generating capacity in less than 10 minutes and the balance in less than 1 hour; allowing it to back up and enable greater use of intermittent renewable technology.

“Our modernization efforts at El Segundo ideally complement California’s growth of intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, in support of the State’s renewable portfolio standard while maintaining its tradition of being a good neighbor to the surrounding coastal communities,” said John Chillemi, President of NRG Energy’s West Region.

The El Segundo Energy Center project contributed to other significant environmental benefits, including the retirement of an older 335-MW steam boiler unit constructed in 1964 that relied on ocean water for cooling. The new Energy Center relies on reclaimed water for its state-of-the art, air-cooled, combined cycle operation, reducing the use of potable water at the site by nearly 90%.

The El Segundo Energy Center meets or exceeds the state’s and South Coast’s strict air quality standards and will use 30% less natural gas per megawatt produced than the original steam boilers, thereby supporting California’s objective of meeting 1990 greenhouse gas levels by 2020.

Through a 10-year power purchase agreement, Southern California Edison will obtain the entire output of the facility.

The El Segundo Energy Center is one of several NRG assets that are subject to a Right of First Offer Agreement between NRG Energy and the newly-created NRG Yield (NYSE: NYLD).

This isn’t the last redevelopment activity for this site. The California Energy Commission is reviewing the proposed El Segundo Energy Center amendment. The project applicant is El Segundo Energy Center LLC, a subsidiary of NRG.

El Segundo is a 1,052-MW natural gas power plant built in the 1950s. In 2005, the commission approved a plan to demolish and replace Units 1 and 2 with Units 5, 6, and 7 with the continued use of once-through cooling. In 2010, the commission approved an amendment to install four rapid start combined-cycle units (Units 5-8) using dry cooling technology. Construction of Units 5-8 is what has now been completed and announced by NRG on Aug. 2

In April, the company filed an amendment that would demolish two steam boiler units (Units 3 and 4) and replace them with 449 MW of dry-cooled, natural gas-fired capacity (Units 9-12). This amendment is expected to eliminate the use of ocean water for once-through cooling. When completed, the facility’s total generating capacity would be 1,022 MW within Units 5-12.

If the commission approves the latest El Segundo amendment, the applicant plans to demolish Units 3 and 4 by the end of 2015. Construction on the project is expected to start by mid-2016 and conclude in 2018. The projected on-line date is summer 2018. The estimated capital cost for the project would be $420m to $500m.

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.