California commission okays ownership change for Palmdale power project

The California Energy Commission on June 12 issued an order approving an ownership change for a gas-fired power project in Palmdale that is undergoing a major revamp under the new owner.

On April 30, Palmdale Energy LLC requested a transfer of ownership for the Palmdale Hybrid Power Project (PHPP) from the city of Paimdale to Palmdale Energy. The PHPP was licensed in August 2011 as a nominal 570-MW hybrid facility utilizing combined-cycle and solar trough technologies located in the city of Palmdale.

“The California Energy Commission hereby grants the request of Palmdale Energy LLC, to acquire ownership of the PHPP and establishes that Palmdale Energy, LLC agrees to be bound by the requirements of the Energy Commission’s Decision for the project and understands the obligations imposed by all conditions of certification,” said the June 12 order.

Summit Power Group LLC has taken on this stalled project and plans major changes in it, including the deletion of the solar part. The California commission got two April 30 applications related to the new situation. In one case, the parties asked for permission to transfer the ownership to the Palmdale Energy affiliate of Summit Power Group. Also on April 30, Palmdale Energy filed an amendment petition, which will take longer to process, proposing to eliminate the solar energy component of the project and reconfigure the two-on-one combined cycle power block configuration to incorporate new gas turbine technology to meet pending need for “Flexible Resources” to support integration of renewable energy.

In 2008, the City of Palmdale filed an Application For Certification (AFC) for a nominal 570-MW hybrid of natural gas-fired combined-cycle generating equipment integrated with solar thermal generating equipment. The combined-cycle equipment would have utilized two natural gas-fired combustion turbine generators (CTG), two heat recovery steam generators (HRSG), and one steam turbine generator (STG). The solar thermal equipment was planned to use arrays of parabolic collectors to heat a high-temperature working fluid. The hot working fluid would have been used to boil water to generate steam. The combined-cycle equipment was to be integrated thermally with the solar equipment at the HRSG and both utilize the single STG. The commission approved the project in August 2011.

Name being changed to Palmdale Energy Project

Palmdale Energy is now requesting that the PHPP name be changed to Palmdale Energy Project (PEP). The other project modifications proposed by the April 30 amendment request include:

  • Replacement of the General Electric gas turbines with new Siemens SGT6- 5000Fs to meet pending need for “Flexible Resources” to support integration of renewable energy.
  • Elimination of the solar components of the approved project.
  • Elimination of Brine Concentrator/Crystallizer systems.
  • Replacement of the wet cooling tower with an Air Cooled Condenser (ACC).
  • Reduction of the site from 333 acres to 50 acres.
  • Addition of a waste stream consisting of combustion turbine evaporative cooler blowdown, water treatment system reject, and plant drains.
  • Change in the water steam cycle chemistry control system from a phosphate-based system to an all volatile system.

“Palmdale Energy is acquiring the site in order to develop fast-start flexible generation to meet the changing California power demands, specifically to assist in the integration of renewable energy generated in California,” said the amendment application. “This change in technology could not have been anticipated during the original permitting process because at the time of the original licensing the PHPP was owned by the City of Palmdale whose objectives for the project were different. Palmdale Energy was not part of the original proceedings.

“The [California Independent System Operator] electric grid is undergoing significant transformation. The State of California has adopted renewable portfolio standards for electric utilities requiring that 33 percent of retail electric sales be served by renewable energy sources by 2020, which represents approximately 20,000 megawatts of capacity from new variable energy resources. Current estimates are by 2024 there may be 25,000 megawatts of capacity from variable energy resources.

“In addition, 12,079 megawatts of once through cooling resources will likely retire over the next eight years rather than meet environmental regulations. Further, California is currently examining policies to achieve 12,000 megawatts of distributed generation. CAISO studies show that to reliably operate the grid with this heightened level of uncertainty and variability, the CAISO will have an increased need for resources that can ramp up and down quickly and start and shut down potentially multiple times per day, i.e., flexible capacity. At the same time, the once-through-cooling retirements will reduce the number of existing resources that are available to provide the flexibility necessary to manage the increased variability and maintain day-to-day reliability.”

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.