CEC May Limit Operation of New Simple-Cycle Power Plants

By Published On: December 15, 2006

In the coming year, the California Energy Commission will consider setting a new policy to limit the operation of proposed simple-cycle peaker plants. Commissioners say the policy may be needed because there’s a large number of proposed simple-cycle plants that developers want to operate around the clock, year-round – effectively as baseload units. The plants are all set to be run on natural gas. “We seem to be on the threshold of a policy issue here regarding natural gas use efficiency and peakers,” said commissioner James Boyd at the CEC’s December 13 business meeting, in calling for a new policy. The discussion came as the commission approved a 130 MW simple-cycle gas-fired expansion of Calpine’s Pastoria Energy Facility 30 miles south of Bakersfield at Tejon Ranch. The plant, expected to be operational in 2011, will stand alongside the company’s existing 750 MW combined-cycle unit at Pastoria. The Energy Commission estimates that the new unit will have a 35.1 percent fuel efficiency rating. By comparison, General Electric’s new H System combined-cycle plant operates with a 60 percent fuel efficiency rating. In other action, the CEC:  Adopted the New Solar Homes Partnership Guidebook, which will enable it to offer incentives to home builders beginning next year as part of the California Solar Initiative.  Approved $3 million to establish the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center within the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Davis.  Nixed further consideration of the proposed Avenal Energy Power Plant Project in Avenal after the developer, Federal Power Avenal, repeatedly failed to submit data adequate to support its licensing application. The commission also reaffirmed its decision to license the 145 MW San Francisco Electricity Reliability Project, turning aside two petitions for reconsideration filed on procedural grounds by environmental justice and renewable energy advocates (Circuit, Dec. 1, 2006). The CEC also approved the restart of the 55 MW Bottle Rock Geothermal Plant at the Geysers in Lake County after a 16-year shutdown. – William J. Kelly

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