Smaller Carlsbad power plant approved

Smaller Carlsbad power plant approved
The Carlsbad Energy Commission approves an amendment to the Carlsbad Energy Center on July 30, which will replace the Encina Power Station by 2017. Photo by Ellen Wright

CARLSBAD — On July 30, the California Energy Commission approved a license for NRG Energy to build a smaller and more efficient power plant on the site where the Encina Power Station is currently located.

In May, the commission approved a “power purchase and tolling” agreement between SDG&E and the Carlsbad Energy Center, as the new plant will be called.

The agreement is a contract for SDG&E to purchase power from the new plant. That decision has been appealed and is currently under review.

Coming to an agreement for a new power station between region wide stakeholders has been a long road.

“The CEC approval of the Carlsbad Energy Center is an important milestone in helping achieve local, regional, and state goals,” said John Chillemi, president of NRG Energy’s West region. “Moving one step closer to construction of a lower profile, more environmentally beneficial plant also supports the city’s goals of removing the older, larger Encina plant, and redeveloping the beach front site.”

In 2007, NRG Energy proposed a larger power station, which would have produced 540 megawatts of energy.

It was approved in 2012, even though the Carlsbad city officials opposed the project because there was no plan to tear down the existing Encina Power Station.

During this time, regional power needs shifted dramatically due to the closing of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the availability of new technology.

In January 2014, NRG agreed to tear down the existing power plant, reduce the profile of the new power plant and return the coastal land to non-industrial use.

The final step in the agreement was receiving approval from the California Energy Commission. After various public meetings, the commission approved the amendment this past Thursday.

The lower profile power station will run during peak times of energy demand and is more environmentally friendly than the first proposal.

“This project will help ensure a reliable energy supply for our region while freeing up precious coastal land for the benefit of the public,” said Assistant City Manager Gary Barberio. “We look forward to working with NRG and the public to develop a plan that supports our community’s vision for the future of their coastline.”

The Encina Power Station’s smokestack stands at 400 feet. The new Carlsbad Energy Center will house a 90-foot smokestack and take up a third of the space.

The peaker style plant was made possible due to recent advancements in technology.

“The new project’s fast start technology will help ensure regional reliability as it enables greater renewable integration into the California grid, which additionally helps advance California’s goals to reduce its statewide carbon footprint,” Chillemi said.

The demolition of the Encina Power Station is expected to take two years and will start in 2018, after the new Carlsbad Energy Station is online.

Construction on the new power plant will begin once the project’s licenses and related approvals can no longer be appealed.

It could be complete as early as November 2017.

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