Amended Carlsbad power plant approved

Amended Carlsbad power plant approved
The 400-foot smokestack at the Encina Power Station has been an unpopular city landmark since the ‘50s. Here, it looms over a hill in the strawberry fields. Photo by Ellen Wright

CARLSBAD — The California Public Utilities Commission approved a gas-powered peaker style power plant last Thursday to replace the power lost after the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shut down in 2013.

The peaker plant, which operates during peak times of demand, will also replace the Encina Power Station, which is set to go off line in 2017.

The Carlsbad Energy Center, as it’s called, will produce 500 megawatts of energy.

The plant has drawn criticism from environmentalists who argue the commission is rushing to a decision without properly exploring cleaner alternatives.

“This decision is just more of the same from the CPUC,” said Matt Vespa with The Sierra Club. “By allowing this gas plant to be built, we are stifling San Diego’s clean energy potential, job growth, and ambitious efforts to reduce pollution that exacerbates health issues and climate change.”

The commission approved the Purchase Power Tolling agreement between SDG&E and the power plant operator, NRG Energy 4-1.

“We appreciate the CPUC’s vote of confidence that the Carlsbad Energy Center is the best approach to have the appropriate, flexible capacity online by 2017 to enable California to reach its greenhouse gas reduction goals through building additional renewable generation while preserving the reliability of the grid,” said John Chillemi, president of NRG Energy’s West region.

NRG will be responsible for demolishing the Encina Power Station.

Officials said they plan to recycle and reuse some portions of the power station.

It won’t be completely demolished until 2020.

The new Carlsbad Energy Center will take about 22 months to build and will likely begin this November or December.

The plant will house a 90-foot tall smokestack, which is about a quarter of the size of the Encina Power Station.

In 2012, the CPUC had approved a plan for a larger power station, which would have produced 600 megawatts of energy and stood at 139-feet.
At the time, city officials opposed the project because there was no guarantee that NRG would tear down the Encina Station.
Once San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shut down, the power needs shifted dramatically and SDG&E got involved with the Carlsbad Energy Station.

City and energy officials worked together to come to a compromise.

NRG officials agreed to tear down Encina and the size of the Carlsbad Energy Center was reduced 35 percent.

The amended plan that was just passed had the approval of the City Council because NRG agreed to a smaller environmental footprint.
SDG&E also agreed to relocate a public works yard on Cannon and give the land to the city.

Mayor Matt Hall has a long-term vision for a linear park, stretching from Terramar to Leucadia.

Construction on the new power plant will be limited from the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends.

Once constructed, The Carlsbad Energy Center will not be allowed to operate between midnight and 6 a.m. unless required for reliability purposes.

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