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Carlsbad power plant plans given nod

CARLSBAD — Plans for a new power plant, to be built alongside the existing plant on Carlsbad Boulevard, are one step closer to approval, officials with NRG West said.
In a preliminary assessment report released last week, the California Energy Commission gave the newly proposed plant a nod despite having issues with how the plant would impact views, and how the emissions and environmental impacts could be lessened.
Commissioners from the California Energy Commission, the state agency that will ultimately decide on the plant’s future fate, said they need to hear more about the three main issues, and how they will be resolved, before the final decision is made early next year.
The proposed 540-mega-watt plant will supply enough power for 400,000 homes and is considered to be necessary for the state of California. Officials with NRG West have said it will eventually take the place of the old plant, but have also said they cannot say when that will be.
For its part, the city has said it supports the new plant, with its two new power-generating units, but worked to come up with an alternate site, away from the prime coastal property.
City officials organized workshops and meetings, but NRG rejected all the proposed alternatives. Officials with NRG have said the current site, where the existing plant is located, is the best one for many reasons.
Ultimately, the state energy commission, not the city, will decide. The city has little control, but can provide information to the state agency.
The newly proposed plant will sit on the shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, on the west side of the freeway. The impact on views from the two 70-foot-high generating units — sunk 40 feet into the ground, both with 140-foot-high smoke stacks — will be significant. When the widening of the Interstate 5 freeway is completed, the units will sit just feet from the freeway.
In addition, NRG West has not made arrangements to lesson the emissions, including NOx, which stands for nitrogen oxide, from the plant, city officials said. The greenhouse gas emissions are also of concern, said Joe Garuba, municipal projects manager with the city of Carlsbad.
Garuba said the proposed plant will emit 1 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The current plant produces very little, he said, and the newly approved desalination plant will only produce 30,000 metric tons.
The last concern the commissioners expressed was that of the impact on marine life of the lagoon.
Although the new plant will be primarily air-cooled, some water will be needed in the process. Officials from NRG West had hoped to use some of the city’s reclaimed water, however the city has said the water it produces has already been spoken for.
As a result, NRG is proposing to build its own desalination plant along the shores of the lagoon, with an intake from the lagoon basin.
“The energy commission does the analysis, and since this project has changed fairly substantially, the analysis (at this point), does not reflect the project,” Garuba said.
However, Tim Hemig, a project manager with NRG West, said the issues are easy to resolve, and views the preliminary assessment as a positive sign that the plant will receive final approval next year.
Public comment is now open, Garuba said. The energy commission will hold the next workshop and hearing from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 7 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Sheraton Carlsbad, 5480 Grand Pacific Drive.