California Energy Commission issues staff review of revamped Carlsbad project

California Energy Commission staff on Feb. 17 released a Final Staff Assessment (FSA) for the Carlsbad Energy Center Project Amendment (called the amended CECP).

The project owner and petitioner, Carlsbad Energy Center LLC, an indirect subsidiary of NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG), proposes to modify the project approved by the commission in May 2012 (called the licensed CECP). This FSA, which is a major step in the commission’s review process, contains staff’s independent, objective evaluation of the petition to amend that prior decision.

The petition to amend the CECP license would make significant changes to the prior version of the project. The combined-cycle turbines and their ancillary equipment would be replaced with simple-cycle turbines. This change requires some reconfiguration of the project footprint and the location of project elements, as well as new air quality modeling, and a new Determination of Compliance (DOC) from the local air district with new conditions specific to this different emission sources. In addition, the petition to amend would result in the demolition and removal of the existing Encina Power Station, with its considerable infrastructure and 400-foot stack.

While these changes are substantial, staff does not believe that this will result in new significant environmental effects not previously analyzed, nor an increase in the severity of impacts that would be significant with the mitigation the staff proposes. Even so, the resulting changes require much supplemental analysis, and either modifications to, or additions to, the conditions of certification that include environmental mitigation.

The amended CECP evolved from a series of meetings and discussions which began in late 2013 between the NRG, the city of Carlsbad, its water agency (Carlsbad Municipal Water District), and the local investor-owned utility, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E.) The meetings and discussion resulted in a “Settlement Agreement” between the parties that provided for, among other things: the retirement, decommissioning, demolition and removal of the Encina Power Station (EPS); the remediation and redevelopment of the site formerly housing the EPS; future construction and redevelopment of the CECP; the relocation and construction of a new service center for SDG&E; and “other changes in energy infrastructure and property considerations beneficial to the residents of Carlsbad.”

The amended CECP would also further the state’s policy goals regarding eliminating impacts of once-through power plant cooling; reduce visual blight and other environmental impacts at the Encina Power Station site; and help meet documented local capacity requirements in the San Diego County region by adding new generation to help off-set the June 2013 closure of the 2,200-MW SONGS nuclear facility located 25 miles north of the project site in San Clemente, California.

The amended CECP would still be located on the northeastern corner of the 95-acre EPS site in the northern coastal San Diego County city of Carlsbad, California.

The licensed CECP would have been a 558-MW (gross) combined-cycle facility configured with two Siemens SCC6-5000F natural-gas fired combustion turbines and a steam-turbine generator in a combined-cycle configuration. The 632-MW amended CECP would include six simple-cycle General Electric LMS100 natural gas-fired combustion turbines. Similar to the licensed CECP, the amended CECP units would interconnect with SDG&E’s 138-kv and 230-kV switchyard facilities. 

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.