AES readies for July 21 hearing on Huntington Beach project

AES Southland Development LLC on June 30 filed with the California Energy Commission opening testimony, preliminary identification of contested issues, and witness and exhibit lists in support of the Huntington Beach Energy Project (HBEP) evidentiary hearing.

This opening testimony also constitutes the applicant’s comments on commission staff’s May 31 Final Staff Assessment (FSA). The case is due for a pre-hearing conference on July 10 and an evidentiary hearing on July 21 before the commission committee handling this application. AES Southland is a unit of AES Corp. (NYSE: AES).

“As correctly stated in the FSA, the proposed HBEP would be a natural gas-fired, combined-cycle, air-cooled, 939-megawatt electrical generating facility,” the company noted. “No new offsite linear facilities are proposed as part of the project. HBEP is designed to start and stop very quickly and be able to ramp up and down, which is critical to supporting both local electrical reliability and grid stability to support peak demand and meet resource adequacy requirements, as identified by the California Independent System Operator.

“Demolition and construction of the HBEP will commence in phases over approximately a continuous 90-month period to allow for continued operation to maintain a minimum generating capacity of at least 430 MW and provide critical voltage support at all times. Maintaining a continuous construction schedule throughout the 90-month period is critical to maintain power delivery and grid reliability in the Western Los Angeles Basin.”

AES Southland had some minor qualms with the staff’s report. For example, it said it concurs with staff’s conclusions in the Air Quality section of the FSA and agrees with the Conditions of Certification set forth in the FSA pertaining to Air Quality. It, however, said it has concerns that staff disregarded that all potential HBEP air quality impacts resulting from construction and operation will be reduced to less-than significant levels through a combination of emission offsets, air quality improvement projects, and the permanent shutdown of existing electrical utility steam boilers.

The City of Huntington Beach submitted June 30 comments on the FSA that also had some relatively minor complaints in areas like noise and traffic impacts of the project.

The California Coastal Commission said in its June 30 comments: “The proposed facility is within an area that, in the 1980s, both the Coastal Commission and the CEC designated as suitable for energy facility expansion. At the time, that designation was meant to allow for reasonable expansion of existing facilities like this along the coast. With time, the state’s electrical grid has developed a reliance on having some of these generating facilities located at or near these coastal locations. While we generally support the proposed HBEP being constructed at this site and recognize its role in providing grid support, we also recognize that it will be subject to several relatively severe site hazards during its expected 30-year operating life. These hazards, described in the attached report, include seismic events, floods, tsunamis, and the expected effects of sea level rise along this stretch of the coast. We therefore urge the CEC to take these hazards into consideration, not only through adopting our recommended conditions, but through implementing a planning process to start identifying less hazardous sites for future energy facility locations and expansions.”

In June 2012, AES Southland submitted an Application for Certification (AFC) to the California Energy Commission seeking permission to construct and operate the HBEP. It will replace the existing AES Huntington Beach Generating Station. The existing plant is scheduled to cease operation by Dec. 31, 2020, in compliance with the California State Water Resources Control’s Board’s (SWRCB) “Water Quality Control Policy on the Use of Coastal and Estuarine Waters for Power Plant Cooling” plan, also known as the once-through cooling program.

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.