Four new 30 MW natural gas-fired generators have just been added to the California grid at a cost of $196 million. In a peculiarity of the state’s power system, it was the Department of Water Resources that has been in charge of the installations expected to provide power at times of high stress on the grid.
DWR, a large public hydropower producer in California, worked with the California Energy Commission, the California Independent System Operator, and partners in Yuba City and Roseville to install 60 MW in each city, DWR State Water Project Deputy Director Ted Craddock said Sept. 29.
Two of the new 30 MW units are adjacent to Roseville Energy’s Energy Park. The other two are next to Calpine’s Greenleaf Unit 1 in Yuba City. The four gas-fueled units, which are supposed to provide summer peak power as needed until the end of 2023, can be online within five minutes of calls from CAISO or the federal Western Area Power Authority, according to DWR.
The units were installed pursuant to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s July 30 order to bring as much emergency gas and diesel-fueled power online as possible by October 2022 to help stabilize the grid during high stress summer situations as the sun sets while demand remains high. Recent shortages often have been attributed to broad western heat waves and hydropower losses. The directive allows new or expanded units to waive air quality protections.
“The state’s energy agencies are committed to ongoing monitoring of these facilities in coordination with DWR and local partners to ensure any impacts are accounted for,” according to CEC Commissioner Siva Gunda. The governor’s order also required the California Air Resources Board to develop a plan to mitigate any resulting emissions by this November.
Selective catalytic reducers in the works
By next summer’s peak season, the four units are expected to have Selective Catalytic Reducers installed to comply with air pollution limits. They are now being fabricated, Ryan Endean, DWR spokesperson, told Current.
The cost of the units will not be paid for by ratepayers. It will be covered by the state’s Disaster Response‑Emergency Operations Account, a special fund.
Hydropower and pumped hydro from DWR’s State Water Project also flow into the CAISO market, to provide peak power and displace fossil generation. The State Water Project moves huge amounts of water from rivers in the northern part of the state to the south and produces significant amounts of power. This can amount to roughly 6 billion kilowatt-hours a year, depending on the amount of precipitation. This year’s drought caused the loss of hydropower at Lake Oroville in Butte County, which has a nominal capacity of 750 MW. In a year of average precipitation, the Hyatt facility at Oroville averages 300-400 MW. “Before it went offline in August, it was producing just 10 MW,” Endean said. The water project actually consumes twice as much energy as it produces. But DWR alters when the project draws power so it can sell peak power into the CAISO market as needed.
During the 2001 state energy crisis, DWR’s new California Energy Resources Scheduling division had the unenviable task of handling the billions of dollars of emergency power contracts signed at breakneck during the 2001 energy crisis, not the state’s grid operator.