California commission takes step in Huntington Beach review

The California Energy Commission staff has released its preliminary analysis of the proposed, gas-fired Huntington Beach Energy Project (HBEP) in Orange County.

The first part of the preliminary staff assessment (PSA) was released Oct. 10. Commission staff concluded for all but three technical sections that with the implementation of recommended mitigation measures described in the conditions of certification, the environmental impacts for the proposed 939-MW power project would be less than significant. It also found that the project would comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards (LORS).

Commission staff was unable to determine if the areas of land use, transmission system engineering, and visual resources complies with LORS and if the impacts can be mitigated. Staff will work to resolve these issues through further information and analysis.

The second part of the PSA will consist of three technical sections: alternatives analysis; air quality; and public health. It is scheduled to be filed 45 days after the commission receives the preliminary determination of compliance (PDOC) from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The PDOC explains how the project would comply with applicable air quality regulatory requirements, and proposes permit conditions to ensure compliance.

The PSA serves as the staff’s initial evaluation of the environmental, engineering, public health and safety impacts of the proposed facility. The PSA is not a decision nor does it contain final findings of the commission related to the environmental impacts or the project’s compliance with local, state and federal legal requirements.

After receiving public comments on the PSA, commission staff will publish a final staff assessment (FSA). The FSA will serve as staff’s testimony at evidentiary hearings held by a committee of two commissioners reviewing the project. The committee will issue a proposed decision based on evidence presented at the hearings. The proposed decision will later be presented to the full commission for a final decision.

The project applicant is AES Southland Development LLC, a subsidiary of AES Corp. (NYSE: AES). The proposed natural gas-fired, combined-cycle facility would be located north of the intersection of the Pacific Coast Highway and Newland Street in Huntington Beach. The project would be constructed on a 28.6-acre site located within the existing footprint of the existing Huntington Beach Generating Station (HBGS), with the existing facilities to be demolished and removed as part of this project.

The new facility would consist of two independently operating, combined-cycle gas turbine power blocks. It 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.

If the commission approves the project, which is estimated to cost between $500m to $550m, demolition and construction activities are scheduled between the first quarter of 2015 and the third quarter of 2022.

AES Southland is urging a quicker review process

AES Southland Development told the commission on Oct. 1 that it is concerned about the slow pace of review for this project. The company said in its brief Oct. 1 update that it “remains concerned that this proceeding is moving far too slowly. HBEP is a critical project needed to maintain reliability in the Los Angeles Basin. Applicant has committed significant resources toward the permitting and development of the project and wishes to move the application for certification process more quickly toward a Final Decision.”

Over the past month, the company noted that it has docketed the California ISO Phase I Interconnection Report as well as responses to commission staff’s informal data requests relating to Alternatives and Water Resources. To its knowledge, the only outstanding information required from it is updated meteorological data for air dispersion modeling. It anticipates filing such updated data responses the week of Oct. 14.

In the Oct. 10 PSA, commission staff noted: “The California ISO has recognized the importance of the existing HBGS location in providing energy and contingency reserve for the Western Los Angeles Basin Local Reliability Area and northern San Diego County. Specifically, this location serves Orange County by providing essential electrical service to the existing [Southern California Edison] Ellis substation through a dedicated 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission line connection. If approved by the Energy Commission, the HBEP will ensure the long-term viability of this existing critical generating location and will provide essential electrical service to the residents of Orange County and Huntington Beach. HBEP’s quick-start peaking electric generation capacity will meet peak demand and resource adequacy requirements as identified by AB 380 (Resource Adequacy) and the California ISO.”

The construction laydown areas for this repowering project consist of six acres at the HBGS site and 16 acres at the AES Alamitos Generating Station (AGS) in Long Beach, which will be used for component storage only; no assembly of components will take place at the AGS site. During construction, the large components will be hauled from the construction laydown area at the AGS site to the HBEP site as they are ready for installation.

The existing HBGS currently has five steam generating units (units 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Units 1 and 2 are currently operational. Units 3 and 4 are owned by Edison Mission Huntington Beach LLC. Effective October 2012, Units 3 and 4 ceased commercial operation, and the air emission credits were transferred to the Walnut Creek Energy Park, a 500-MW facility located in City of Industry, Calif. In September 2012, the California ISO approved a must-run contract on Units 3 and 4 to convert to synchronous condensers to provide voltage support to southern Orange County and San Diego in response to the the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station units 2 and 3 being unavailable for the summer of 2013. A major amendment was approved by the commission in December 2012 to convert Units 3 and 4 to synchronous condensers which will provide voltage support. Unit 5, a 133-MW peaker, was retired in 2002.

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.