Proposed CEC Order Would Clear Way for Building Turlock Plant

By Published On: January 24, 2004

Turlock Irrigation District?s plans for a new power plant?which would serve customers recently acquired from Pacific Gas & Electric?should move forward, according to a California Energy Commission recommendation issued last week. Output from the gas-fired 250 MW Walnut Energy Center would be used in part to power a 225-square-mile parcel on the west side of TID?s service territory. The irrigation district began providing energy to the area in December of last year. TID finalized its $25 million purchase of PG&E?s distribution facilities in the region following approvals in numerous forums, including federal bankruptcy court. ?It?s all said and done,? said Turlock Irrigation spokesperson Tony Walker. The irrigation district and PG&E reached agreement on the sale in December 2001. CEC member James Boyd?s proposed decision, issued January 15, declares the Walnut power plant fit for construction, despite concerns about the emission of particulate matter at the site. Though emissions from the unit will meet all requirements of the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District (SJVUAPCD), the plant?s air controls fall short of other guidelines. ?Project operations will not create any new violations of state or federal air quality standards, but will contribute to existing violations of state and federal ozone standards, as well as the state PM 10 standard,? according to Boyd?s proposed order. During construction, the plant is expected to create PM 10 levels at 240 percent of applicable standards, and regular plant operations over a 24-hour period are anticipated to produce PM 10 at a level of 300 percent of applicable standards. The draft order notes that Turlock Irrigation has already bought enough emission reduction credits to offset any pollutants created by the plant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has questioned the validity of the credits, but because the agency did not proscribe them outright, the energy commission will accept them. The credits have the approval of the SJVUAPCD as well. Boyd?s draft also calls for ammonia slip levels of 10 parts per million, twice the 5 ppm ceiling supported by CEC staff. The commissioner?s recommendation matches that of the San Joaquin air district on the matter. Cooling the Walnut Energy Center will require 1,800 acre-feet of recycled water per year, which will be provided by the city of Turlock?s wastewater treatment plant. A zero-liquid-discharge system will be put toward cooling tower blowdown and will allow the plant to avoid the release of any wastewater. Turlock Irrigation wants to have the unit running by the second quarter of 2006. The project cost is estimated between $160 million and $220 million.

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