The proposed modernization of NRG Energy’s Encina power plant that would swap out aging once-through cooled units with new air cooled ones was given the thumbs up by California Energy Commission staff November 12. Three inefficient units cooled with seawater would be replaced by the merchant generator with a 558 MW facility using dry cooling technology. According to the Energy Commission’s final staff assessment, retiring the 50-year plus units will cut emissions and eliminate 225 million gallons per day of cooling water, decrease impingement and entrainment of marine organisms and end the discharge of warm wastewater to the Pacific Ocean. Emissions from the new units are expected to be below California’s greenhouse gas standard for combined-cycle power plants. Earlier, the San Diego Air Pollution Control District concluded that the Encina project upgrade satisfied ambient air quality standards. “The new facility not only will provide rapid response to peak demand periods, such as warmer summer days, but also will support the integration of renewable, intermittent energy resources, such as solar and wind, that are being added to the California grid,” stated David Crane, NRG president and chief executive officer. Constructed in 1954, the Encina power plant has five steam generating units and one peaking unit. Two units built in 1974, would continue to operate. NRG hopes to have the new facility online in 2013.