Proceedings for proposed power plant move forward

Proceedings for proposed power plant move forward
NRG officials want to put in a lower profile plant that has six gas-fired turbines, which will rise 60 feet above ground. The Encina Power Station’s smokestack currently rises 400 feet above ground. Photo by Ellen Wright

CARLSBAD—The California Energy Commission held a public workshop on Aug. 7 to get input on NRG Energy’s proposed peaker style power plant, which may replace the existing Encina Power Station.

NRG officials want to put in a lower profile plant that has six gas-fired turbines, which will rise 60 feet above ground. The Encina Power Station’s smokestack currently rises 400 feet above ground.

The proposed plant will replace the Encina station and will run during peak times of energy use, if approved by the commission.

NRG originally planned to build a power plant with no commitment to sell the energy locally or to tear down the current plant. Carlsbad city officials got involved in negotiations to ensure the city would benefit in some way.

“Basically, there was no local benefit to having another power plant on our coastline so we, in good conscious, could not support that,” Mayor Pro Tem Mark Packard told the commission.

City officials began negotiations with NRG and SDG&E, which own a portion of the site. The conversation changed after the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shut down in 2013.

In January 2013, the San Onofre nuclear power plant went offline. Owners of the nuclear plant, Edison, announced in June 2013 that it would be permanently shut down because of structural issues.

NRG was originally approved by the California Energy Commission in May 2012 to build the peaker style plants.

Even though city officials opposed the project, they had no jurisdiction to deny it because the site is already zoned for energy usage.

The closure of San Onofre meant a need for power locally so NRG worked with the city to come to an agreement.

NRG has amended their project application from May 2012, which is now being reviewed by the California Energy Commission.

NRG Environmental Director Greg Piatnka gave a presentation to the commission discussing the proposed project. He said the new power plant would have less impact on the air quality than the current plant and would use less water. It will also use reclaimed water instead of ocean water.

If the plan is approved, the new Carlsbad Energy Station will be built within two years of approval.

NRG will tear down Encina by 2020, once the other energy plant is built, if it gets approval from the commission, said Piatnka.

“This proposal was made with much compromise and the collaboration should be applauded,” Assemblyman Rocky J. Chavez said in a statement.

Carlsbad residents attended the workshop to both support and oppose the project.

“Is (the plan) perfect? No. Is it fair? In my opinion, yes,” Carlsbad resident Michael Bart told the commission.

Chair of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Carmen Rene also voiced support for the project.

“In addition to cleaner energy being produced in our community, the Carlsbad Energy Center would provide millions of dollars in local tax revenue annually and create hundreds of jobs during construction,” said Rene.

Kathy Fredinburg said she was opposed to any new plant pollution producing at the site and is thinking of moving from her home in Capri because of the proposed plant.

“I think it’s going to have a severe psychological effect on the citizens of Carlsbad who perhaps hadn’t paid attention up until now,” Fredinburg said. “Suddenly the plant is running more, suddenly they’re seeing the pollution, suddenly they’re aware that this is not this clean wonderful area that they wanted to live in.”

The commission will meet again Aug. 25 in Sacramento to decide whether or not the amendments to the original proposals should be packaged together or separately.

Currently, there is one amendment to remove tanks on the site and another one to change the approved natural gas combined generator to the peaker style plant with six turbines.

The city is also working with NRG to move SDG&E’s operations yard on the site to a new site in order to free up coastal land for public use.

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