California commission staff works on revamped, 700-MW Palmdale project

California Energy Commission staff filed a Nov. 3 report with the commission identifying potential issues and a preliminary schedule for review of a major amendment to a 2011 approval for the Palmdale Hybrid Power Project (PHPP).

The Nov. 3 report is a preliminary scoping document that identifies issues that staff believes will require careful attention and consideration or could cause delay in processing the petition to amend. Commission staff will present the report at an informational hearing and site visit to be held on Nov. 16.

The revamped version of this project is called the Palmdale Energy Project (PEP). The PHPP was originally licensed as a nominal 570-MW hybrid facility utilizing combined-cycle gas and solar trough technologies located in the city of Palmdale. The facility, originally to be built by the city of Palmdale, was not constructed.

In April, Palmdale Energy LLC, a solely owned subsidiary of Summit Power Project Holdings LLC, filed for this amendment, saying it had taken over the project from the city. The amendment application requests primary modifications to the PHPP to eliminate the solar component, to incorporate newer, fast start, “flexible” natural gas turbine technology, and to replace the water cooling tower with an air-cooled condenser (ACC). The proposed PEP would have a nominal capacity of 645 MW.

Primary equipment for the generating facility would include two natural gas-fired combustion turbine-generators (CTGs) rated at 220 MW each, one heat recovery steam generator (HRSG), one steam turbine-generator (STG) rated at 232 MW, and one auxiliary boiler. The plant would have a maximum overall gross output of 699.4 MW (net) with HRSG duct burners in-service. Changes 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 towers with an ACC;
  • Reduction of the site from 333 acres to 50 acres;
  • Reorientation of the power block with the HRSG stacks now on the east and the combustion turbine inlets to the west;
  • Relocation of the point where the 230-kV transmission line turns south to the generating facility from East Avenue M to a point approximately 1,800 feet further west on East Avenue M;
  • Addition of three 230 kV transmission line towers along the south side of East Avenue M north of the project site and extension of the generation tie-line westerly approximately 1,800 feet along the south side of East Avenue M;
  • Addition of waste stream consisting of combustion turbine inlet 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; and
  • Possible change from a CO2 based fire suppression system for some components to an FM200 based system.

Project site is on undeveloped land next to Air Force facility

The proposed PEP facilities would require permanent use of 50 acres located south of East Avenue M in the city of Palmdale at 950 East Avenue M. The site is bordered on the west by vacant land, and on the south and east by the U.S. Air Force Plant 42 site. The site’s northern boundary is East Avenue M, the boundary between the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster. Air Force Plant 42 supports facilities for the production, engineering, final assembly and flight testing of high performance aircraft.

Natural gas for the plant will be delivered to the project through an as-yet-to-be constructed 8.7-mile, 20-inch diameter gas pipeline to serve the project in the same manner (route and design) as approved in the final license.

Incorporated into the project design will be air pollution emission controls designed to meet Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District (AVAQMD) regulations for the CTGs, the auxiliary boiler, the fire pump engine, and the emergency generator engine. The dry cooling system has no emissions and is therefore exempt from emission limits; however, there will be a thermal plume, an invisible discharge caused by a column of warm air rising above the PEP.

Pending commission approval of the amendment, construction of the PEP is likely to begin as early as the end of 2016. With construction planned to proceed over the course of a 25-month construction period, PEP would be operational around the first quarter of 2019.

The PEP as proposed would generate a nominal electrical output of 645 MW and a maximum output of 700 MW with duct burners in-service. The final California Independent System Operator Interconnection Facilities Study for the currently licensed PHPP from 2009 studied an output of 570 MW. The net increase of 130 MW will require an update. The California ISO received the Interconnection Request for the additional 130 MW on April 29 of this year. The Interconnection Study is not available for commission staff to review at this time; it is anticipated to be available in mid January 2016.

The Interconnection Study is required for staff to determine the potential need for new or upgraded transmission facilities beyond the first point of interconnection with the existing grid. If the studies show the project would cause any transmission line overloads which might require transmission line reconductoring or other significant downstream upgrades, an analysis will be required for these “downstream” transmission facilities.

Although staff said it has experienced some delays early in processing this amendment, the proposed schedule reflects an assumption that it can be processed according to the Energy Commission’s normal 12-month schedule for Applications for Certification (AFCs). The delays experienced to date are attributable primarily to deficiencies in the original submittal of the PTA necessitating a revised submittal.

The schedule could be affected if the AVAQMD is for any reason delayed in issuing its Preliminary and Final Determinations of Compliance or if the California ISO is delayed in releasing the Interconnection Study.

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.