California declines to give NRG more time to pursue power deals

The pace of natural gas power plant development continues at a brisk pace with some projects moving ahead and others having suffered setbacks since Oct. 1.

Here is a rundown of some of the gas plant milestones in recent weeks as reported by GenerationHub:

* Xcel Energy utility Northern States Power applied Oct. 15 at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for a site permit on the 215 MW Black Dog Unit 6 Project, which is a new simple-cycle natural gas unit at the existing Black Dog power plant.

Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2016 with foundation work for the new unit. Commercial operation is expected in April 2018, the utility said. Two of the remaining coal units at Black Dog, Units 3 and 4, were retired in the spring.

* Over the protests of NRG Energy, the California Energy Commission recently terminated the site certification proceedings for three long-stalled, gas-fired power projects.

The affected projects include the roughly 600 MW San Gabriel combined-cycle project; the 500 MW Sun Valley project and the 550 MW Willow Pass combined-cycle project. The Oct. 14 decisions to terminate do not preclude NRG from applying at some point for a new certificate for any of the projects.

Commission staff said these applications had lingered too long in the system. NRG has said that it was still trying to work out power sale agreements for the projects and asked for an extra year.

* An Advanced Power company, South Field Energy, plans to build a 1,100 MW natural gas power plant in Columbiana County, Ohio.

The South Field Energy project is a $1.1 billion capital investment that will generate an average peak of 550 construction jobs for up to three years. When completed, the facility will employ 25 full-time employees. A pre-application letter has been filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board and a public information meeting is scheduled Oct. 20 at Wellsville High School. The company had earlier filed applications under the name East Ohio Energy.

* Alberta Utilities Commission on Oct. 8 approved a Sept. 28 application from Alberta Heat and Power to delay the completion deadline for a roughly 15 MW cogeneration power plant in the Brooks area.

Blue Earth Inc., on behalf of Alberta Heat and Power, requested approval to extend the completion date of the power plant from Dec. 31, 2015, to July 31, 2016.

* Empire District Electric has filed a request with the Missouri Public Service Commission for changes in rates for its Missouri electric customers to fund combined-cycle gas generation at Riverton Unit 12.

There are already a number of gas turbines at the Riverton station in Cherokee County, Kan. In mid-2016, an upgrade (including installation of a new heat recovery steam generator) will be completed to enable combined-cycle generation. The work is associated with the retirement of coal-fired generators at Riverton.

* Power Ventures Group is nearing an air permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency that would allow it to construct a 112 MW power plant near the town of Garden Prairie in Boone County, Ill. The Illinois EPA is taking comment until Oct. 25 on a draft version of the permit for the Garden Prairie facility.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 22 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants.

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