California commission begins processing of Alamitos repowering plan

The California Energy Commission voted March 12 to begin the certification review process for a proposed new power plant in Southern California that would replace an aging facility of AES Corp. (NYSE: AES).

The commission, which is responsible for certifying thermal power plants 50 MW and greater, determined that the application for certification of the proposed 1,936-MW natural gas-fired Alamitos Energy Center in Long Beach was data adequate. The application was submitted by AES Southland Development LLC in December 2013.

The commission will now begin the discovery and analysis phase of the plant’s environmental and engineering review. A committee of two commissioners—Karen Douglas and Janea Scott—will determine if the proposed project meets power plant certification requirements as well as those of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

If certified, the Alamitos Energy Center would eventually replace the 2,000-MW Alamitos Generating Station. That existing plant will be discontinued because it does not comply with new State Water Resources Control Board policies regarding once-through cooling, a process that uses large amounts of coastal water and returns heated water to the ocean negatively impacting marine life.

The commission on March 12 also approved more than $9.5m in grants for two biogas projects:

  • Pixley Biogas LLC, in Pixley Calif., has received $4.6m to construct an anaerobic digestion facility that will produce biogas from dairy manure and will power the adjoining ethanol-producing Calgren Renewable Fuels Biorefinery. CEQA requirements have been completed, and this approval lets the company move forward with the project.
  • Community Fuels, in Encinitas, Calif., will receive $4.9m to expand biodiesel production capacity at its Port of Stockton facility from 10 million to at least 15 million gallons per year.

AES intends to replace existing units at Alamitos

The existing Alamitos Generating Station Units 1–6 are currently in operation with a net generating capacity of 1,950 MW. All six operating units and the retired Unit 7 would be demolished as part of the Alamitos Energy Center (AEC) repowering project. Construction and demolition activities at the project site are anticipated to last 139 months, from the first quarter of 2016 until the third quarter of 2027, with elements of the new plant phased in as parts of the old plant are shut and ripped out.

The new AEC will consist of four 3-on-1 combined-cycle gas turbine power blocks with twelve natural-gas-fired combustion turbine generators (CTG), twelve heat recovery steam generators (HRSG), four steam turbine generators (STG), four air-cooled condensers, and related ancillary equipment. The AEC will use air-cooled condensers for cooling, completely eliminating the existing ocean water once-through cooling (OTC) system. Getting rid of existing plants using OTC is a high priority for California regulators. It will provide up to 1,936 MW of capacity.

The AEC will interconnect to the existing Southern California Edison (SCE) 230-kV switchyard adjacent to the north side of the property. Natural gas will be supplied to the AEC via the existing offsite 30-inch-diameter pipeline owned and operated by SoCalGas that currently serves the Alamitos Generating Station.

To provide fast-starting and stopping, flexible generating resources, the AEC will be configured and deployed as a multi-stage generating (MSG) facility. The MSG configuration will allow the AEC to generate power across a wide and flexible operating range, serving both peak and intermediate loads with the added capabilities of rapid startup, significant turndown capability, and fast ramp rates (30% per minute when operating above minimum gas turbine turndown capacity).

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.