Geysers and Emission Offsets Get Different Receptions

By Published On: December 15, 2003

Constellation Energy is being recognized for its innovative air emissions offset trading scheme at its 830 MW High Desert power plant, while Calpine?s 1,087 MW San Joaquin project, expected to be licensed early next year, continues to face opposition because its proposed emission credit trading proposal is considered deficient. Calpine?s 850 MW Geysers geothermal project regeneration, on the other hand, got an extended life after a deal to pump treated wastewater into the geothermal basin to sustain 19 projects was launched. The High Desert plant, located in Victorville in the Mojave Desert region, is offsetting its nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) trading reduction credits in the South Coast Air Quality Management District. This is the first trade of pollution credits between the South Coast and Mojave air districts. The High Desert plant came on line last April. NOx and VOCs contribute to ozone levels. Both the Mojave and South Coast regions exceed the federal attainment standards for ozone, but much of the desert region?s ozone problem is caused by pollution blowing in from urban areas. ?If you reduce it at the source, it doesn?t blow into Mojave,? said Chris Davis, California Energy Commission (CEC) spokesperson. As a result of the interbasin air pollution trades, Constellation?s High Desert facility was named power plant of the year by <i>Power Magazine</i> on December 12. In a proposed CEC licensing decision issued December 4, approval of Calpine?s San Joaquin project certification would be contingent on its acquiring ?sufficient? air pollution credits within six months of permitting. CEC staff continue to object to its certification on grounds that the proposed offsets for NOx, VOCs, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide do not comply with state or federal clean air act requirements. The project is slated for an agricultural plot in the southeastern edge of San Joaquin County, which is plagued by worsening air quality. Next week, the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Management District is expected to further demote the region from ?severe? nonattainment for ozone to ?extreme? nonattainment. The move is expected to put off a freeze of federal transportation funds. Calpine faced similar objections from CEC staff over its proposed emission offsets required for its 670 MW Inland Empire project slated for Riverside County, which was recommended for certification (<i>Energy Circuit</i>, December 1). The recharge of Calpine?s 19 geothermal projects, which are located in Lake and Sonoma counties and produce 850 MW, began late last week. A 40-mile pipeline now carries 11 million gallons a day of treated wastewater from the city of Santa Rosa to feed Calpine?s geyser facilities. The Geysers are in danger of running out of steam if not replenished. Calpine spent $45 million building a leg of the pipeline and its distribution and injection system into the geyser field, said Kent Robertson, Calpine spokesperson. ?By injecting recycled water into The Geysers steam reservoir, the city of Santa Rosa has found an environmentally sound discharge solution and is helping to promote green power production in California,? said Dennis Gilles, Calpine vice president. The Geysers is the largest geothermal generating facility in the world and once produced 2,000 MW.

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