The California Energy Commission at its February 4 meeting allowed the Modesto Irrigation District (MID) to bypass the 12-month certification process for its proposed 95 MW Ripon plant in the San Joaquin Valley. The plant was given the nod to run full-time during summer months to provide extra power through the region?s intense-demand canning season and as a peaker plant for the rest of the time?for a total of 8,760 hours per year. The CEC based the exemption on its finding that the Ripon plant wouldn?t create adverse environmental impacts. According to the commission, the Ripon project provides an energy-efficient way to meet Modesto?s peaking needs and add to system stability. Ripon ?sets a dangerous precedent? because peaker plants were not intended to run all the time, argued one project opponent, who also accused MID of pushing Ripon to fatten its coffers. Modesto is accountable to ratepayers, responded an MID representative, and munis have incentives to be cost-effective in a competitive market. Peakers run up to 30 percent of the time during the year, according to CEC spokesperson Chris Davis. But as a simple-cycle plant that can fire up quickly, MID?s power plant will offer ancillary services to the transmission grid that a combined-cycle plant with a longer ramp-up can?t offer, said Davis. In other CEC action, the commission found that there were not enough data available on Calpine?s proposed Los Esteros conversion project to continue the siting process at this time. The commission found it ?inadequate? on 14 counts, including air quality and biological resources. Calpine wants to add 140 MW to the combined-cycle plant, for a total of 320 MW of output. Data-adequacy updates will likely be reviewed in March. In related news, a commission committee has recommended approval of the proposal to build the 630 MW combined-cycle El Segundo plant to replace two aging units at the current site of the El Segundo generating station. Water to cool the new facility would continue to be provided by a once-through system that draws seawater from Santa Monica Bay. A vote on whether to license the project is expected this spring.