Amended power plant is 35% shorter than approved plant

Amended power plant is 35% shorter than approved plant
Demolition on the Encina Power Station will begin in 2018 and be completed by 2020. It is going to be replaced by a lower-profile power plant. Photo by Ellen Wright

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad Energy Commission held an evidentiary hearing Wednesday and Thursday on a proposed power plant, which will replace the Encina Power Station.

In 2012, the commission approved plans submitted by NRG Energy for a new power station to be built next to the Encina Power station, which is owned by Carlsbad Energy Center LLC, a subsidiary of NRG Energy.

City officials opposed the project but had no jurisdiction, since NRG already owned the land and it was zoned for an energy plant.

There were also no plans at the time to remove the Encina Power Station, which at 400 feet tall, has been an unpopular landmark in the community since the ’50s.

The closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in June 2013 changed the energy needs in Southern California.

SDG&E offered to purchase energy from the new peaker-style power plant if the approved 2012 project was amended.

The peaker style power plant starts operating during peak hours of energy consumption.

Mayor Pro Tem Keith Blackburn addressed the hearing to highlight how far the negotiations have come.

“We were very opposed in the beginning and we’ve reached a very good agreement with NRG and SDG&E that I think is fair to all of us, and more importantly it’s very fair to our residents and the people who use our beaches,” Blackburn said.

The state energy commission is getting close to amending the original proposal, which allowed a 139-foot smokestack.

The amended project proposes a 90-foot stack.

“This project will not have any significant visual impacts and will bring about an improvement in the visual project area,” said Dr. Thomas Priestly, who has worked on the project since the beginning as a senior environmental planner with CH2M Hill.

Intervener for Terramar residents Kerry Siekmann said NRG isn’t currently making a significant effort towards minimizing the visual effect on the Encina station.

“We live in a coastal town and this is an industrial view that is shockingly different than the rest of the town,” Siekmann said about the view driving southbound on Interstate 5.

The witnesses talked about past discussions with Caltrans staff.

Caltrans owns the land alongside the freeway, which is where vegetation is needed to obscure the power plant from view.

Some witnesses expressed concern that Caltrans would not provide landscaping to hide the power plant in the buffer between the freeway and the energy plant.

William Kanemoto, an energy consultant with the state Energy Commission said Caltrans is legally obligated to address the visual impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The presiding members will propose a decision, which will be published May 4.

The California Energy Commission has about 30 days with the proposal and the public can comment during this time.

The final adoption hearing will likely be set later this June.

At a meeting in January, Mike Monasmith, senior project manager at California Energy Commission said demolition of the Encina Power Station will begin in late 2018 and finish in 2020.

He estimated construction will begin in November or December, if the commission approves the amended project.

It will take about 22 months to build.

The new power station, if approved will be 30 percent more efficient than the Encina Power Station.

Blackburn said he looks forward to the project freeing up valuable open space on the coast.

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