Waxman opposes AES repowering of Redondo Beach power plant

House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., sent a Sept. 26 letter to California Energy Commission Chair Robert Weisenmiller calling on him to reject an application by AES Corp. (NYSE: AES) to repower the Redondo Beach power plant.

Waxman instead urged the commission to work with AES and the local community on a plan for site redevelopment. A recent independent analysis from Advanced Energy Solutions commissioned by the City of Redondo Beach indicates the power from the facility is no longer needed, Waxman said.

The AES proposal would essentially replace the existing power plant with a new power plant. “The AES Redondo Beach Power Plant began operation in the 1950s and occupies a 52-acre site located across the street from the King Harbor Marina in Redondo Beach,” Waxman wrote in the letter. “It cannot continue operation as currently configured, because the State Water Resources Control Board has required coastal power plants to discontinue the use of cooling water intake structures that harm marine life.”

Local leaders and residents correctly recognize that there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for redevelopment of this large property adjacent to the waterfront, Waxman wrote.

The current AES Redondo Beach plant is capable of generating over 1,300 MW, Waxman added. “However, it has been operating at only a small fraction of its maximum capacity. For example, in both 2011 and 2012, the power plant operated at less than 5% of its maximum capacity. Now an independent analysis from Advanced Energy Solutions commissioned by the City of Redondo Beach demonstrates that the additional generating capacity available from the power plant, should it be repowered, would not be required for grid reliability in the foreseeable future.” 

Waxman urged Weisenmiller to review the analysis by Advanced Energy Solutions. “Unless you determine that the facility is absolutely essential and there are no feasible alternatives, you should reject the proposal to repower the plant,” the congressman added.

On Oct. 1, a select committee of the California commission will perform a site visit at the power plant and hold a local informational meeting as part of the application review process.

AES is pursuing 496-MW replacement for existing plant

In November 2012, AES Southland LLC submitted an Application for Certification (AFC) to the California commission seeking permission to construct and operate a power generation facility, the Redondo Beach Energy Project (RBEP). The site for the proposed project is southeast of and adjacent to the North Harbor Drive and Herondo Street intersection and would be located entirely within the approximately 50-acre footprint of the existing Redondo Beach Generating Station, an operating power plant.

The RBEP is a proposed natural-gas fired, combined-cycle, air-cooled facility with a net capacity of 496 MW, which will replace, and be constructed on the site of the AES Redondo Beach Generating Station. RBEP will consist of one three-on-one, combined-cycle gas turbine power block with three natural-gas-fired combustion turbine generators (CTG), three supplemental-fired heat recovery steam generators (HRSG), one steam turbine generator (STG), an air-cooled condenser, and related ancillary equipment.

That includes three Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas 501D CTGs with a nominal rating of 119 MW each. The CTGs will be equipped with evaporative coolers on the inlet air system and dry low oxides of nitrogen (NOx) combustors.

The existing Redondo Beach Generating Station Units 1 through 8 and auxiliary boiler no. 17 will be demolished as part of the project. Units 1, 2, 3, and 4 are currently retired. Units 5, 6, 7, and 8 are currently in use.

The project narrowly survived an anti-power plant ballot measure this past 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 Edison International‘s (NYSE: EIX) San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The City of Redondo Beach filed a document Aug. 27 saying the application was not data adequate. Among other things, the city argued that CEC has not suitably considered other alternatives, including the “no project alternative.” Also on Aug. 27, a group called Building a Better Redondo filed a document opposing the plant.

Current schedule would see new plant completion in 2019

CEC staff, in a “scoping” document filed on Sept. 20, said about the project schedule: “Construction of the new power block would begin in the first quarter of 2017 and continue to the end of the second quarter 2019 (approximately 36 months) when it would be ready for commercial operation. Although operational, construction would continue through 2019 including construction of the new control building and the relocation of the Wyland Whaling Wall. The existing Units 5-8 and auxiliary boiler no. 17 would remain in service until the second quarter of 2018. Units 5-8 and auxiliary boiler no. 17 would be demolished starting the first quarter of 2019 through the fourth quarter of 2020. Startup and testing of the new power block is scheduled for the first and second quarter of 2019.”

The scoping report also contains a discussion of the potential issues the commission staff has identified to date. “The Committee should be aware that this report may not include all of the significant issues that may arise during the case, since discovery is not yet complete and other parties have not had an opportunity to identify their concerns,” staff added. The identification of the potential issues contained in this report is based on comments of other government agencies and on staff’s judgment of whether any of the following circumstances could occur:

  • Potential significant impacts which may be difficult to mitigate;
  • Potential areas of noncompliance with applicable laws, ordinances, regulations or standards;
  • Areas of conflict or potential conflict between the parties; and
  • Areas where resolution may be difficult or may affect the schedule.

As for the issue of project alternatives, under state law the commission may accept an application for a new power plant at an existing site without requiring a discussion of site alternatives if the commission finds that the proposed project “has a strong relationship to the existing industrial site and that it is therefore reasonable not to analyze alternative sites for the project.” Nevertheless, staff said it will investigate and analyze potential site alternatives to the proposed project during the discovery phase of the process. 

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.