Huntington Beach Energy Project nears California commission decision

On Oct. 9, the Huntington Beach Energy Project Committee handling the California Energy Commission review of a proposed repowering project issued its Revised Presiding Member’s Proposed Decision on the Huntington Beach Energy Project (project).

The committee assigned to conduct these proceedings, made up of two commissioners, will hold two closed session committee conferences on the decision on Oct. 22 and Oct. 27 in Sacramento.

The open portion of the conferences will be convened, public comment taken, and then the closed sessions will begin. The open meetings will be reconvened to announce the conclusion of the closed sessions and then adjourn.

The deadline for intervener and public comments on the decision is Oct. 24. The full commission will consider the proposed decision, the committee recommendations, and any further matters on Oct. 29 in Sacramento.

In June 2012, AES Southland Development LLC, which is a unit of AES Corp., submitted an Application for Certification on the project, a natural-gas-fired, combined cycle and air-cooled facility located in the city of Huntington Beach, Orange County.

The project would be constructed within the existing footprint of the still-operating Huntington Beach Generation Station. Project construction will require the removal of the existing Units 1, 2, and 5. HBGS Units 3 and 4 were licensed through the commission and demolition of these units is authorized under that license and will proceed irrespective of the project.

The new project facility would use evaporative air cooling, eliminating the existing power plant generators’ daily need for large quantities of ocean water for purposes of once-through cooling. Elimination of once-through cooling is a key policy priority in California.

Two, 230-kV transmission interconnections will connect both project power blocks to the existing Southern California Edison 230-kV switchyard that is located on a separate parcel within the existing HBGS site. Natural gas would be delivered to project via an existing Southern California Gas 16-inch-diameter pipeline.

If approved by the commission, project demolition and construction is proposed to take about 90 months to complete. Power Block 1 would begin commercial operation in late 2018 or early 2019, and Power Block 2 would begin commercial operation in mid 2020.

The capital cost for the project (i.e., demolition of Units 1, 2, and 5 and construction of Power Blocks 1 and 2) is estimated to exceed $500 million.

The existing power plant has five steam units (Units 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Units 1 and 2 are currently operational. Unit 5 was retired in 2002. Units 3 and 4 are owned by Edison Mission Huntington Beach LLC.

Effective in October 2012, Units 3 and 4 ceased commercial operation and their capacity credits were transferred to the Walnut Creek Energy Park, a 500 MW generating facility located in city of Industry, California. In September 2012, the California Independent System Operator (California ISO) approved a must-run contract on Units 3 and 4, and they were temporarily returned to service, which was possible because Walnut Creek had not yet used the capacity credits.

In December 2012, the commission approved conversion of Units 3 and 4 to synchronous condensers to provide voltage support to southern Orange County and San Diego. This voltage support was required because of the unavailability of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station units 2 and 3 for the summer of 2013 and thereafter. During construction of the project, Units 3 and 4 would continue to provide voltage support through the synchronous condensers. Upon demolition of Units 3 and 4, the synchronous condensers would be taken out of service.

The project would be a 939 MW (nominal gross output) combined cycle plant, employing the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) 501DA gas turbine generators (also referred to as combustion turbine generators, or CTGs) in a combined cycle configuration. This configuration has the ability to start up, shut down, turn down, and provide load following and cycling service, adding flexibility to meeting California’s power demands.

Each of the two power blocks would have a three-on-one configuration, with each having three Mitsubishi turbines, three heat recovery steam generators and one steam turbine.

“On June 7, 2013, Southern California Edison (SCE) announced that Units 2 and 3 of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) would be permanently retired,” the proposed decision noted. “The closure of SONGS places additional responsibility on SCE for replacement of over 2,200 MW of electrical generation for southern California customers. The project is designed to fill a critical role in replacement generation and reliability for southern California.”

The design of the project involves a smaller footprint and lower profile than the existing power plant. Removal and replacement of existing structures, tanks, and cooling tower with project elements that are shorter and set back further will reduce some of the existing visual conditions. On April 7 of this year, the city of Huntington Beach adopted a resolution endorsing the visual enhancement plan for the project. These enhancements will further reduce visual impacts of a power plant located near the ocean.

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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.

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