NRG files application to build Oxnard power plant

By George Miller

NRG, which operates the Oxnard Mandalay and Ormond Beach electric power generating plants, has filed an application to build a new, hi-tech, low footprint, low emission plant at the Mandalay Beach site. This would replace three current, obsolete 5+ decade-old plants providing peak generation capacity of nearly 2ooo megawatts, with a much smaller 267 megawatt unit, which would power about 130,000 homes. The fairly new 49 megawatt gas turbine “peaker” plant, also at the Mandalay site, would be unaffected.

MandalayBeforeAfter

depiction of NRG Mandalay site before and after comparison, sent with press release. (Source: NRG)

Under current laws, the existing plants will no longer meet cooling requirements by 2020 and would either require very expensive retrofits to already inefficient units, or be shut down.  The City of Oxnard has imposed a moratorium on the construction of new power plants and is working on updating its general and coastal plans to exclude them. Moorpark has also rejected  a power plant proposal.  However, the California Energy Commission has the last word on any approvals. Opponents considerably outnumber advocates.

We were told that the Mandalay plan was the least costly and least environmentally disruptive approach. However, most local residents and also environmentalists do not want it so close to the coast, even though the beach would be accessible and the “footprint” would be much smaller. There is a smaller number of pro-business, pro local power advocates who would like to see the plan move ahead.  There is also the prospect of significant construction money being spent and large ongoing tax revenues. These are estimated by NRG at $2.8 million annually in property tax , $5 million in sales tax revenues-  and increased direct and indirect employment.  Of course, most of that money doesn’t go directly to Oxnard. Construction costs are estimated to be  $235-270 million. A brochure provided by NRG also claims an 80% reduction in potable water use, although most cooling water is drawn from a canal running from Channel Islands Harbor, which also provides harbor water circulation and its maintenance is not addressed in any plans we have seen.

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Power plans

The current plants are used for reserve power and operate only intermittently. However, their technology is not suitable for either rapid or efficient startup and shutdown. The proposed new plant would address that problem.  The new unit would be far smaller than the total capacity of the obsolete units to be replaced. Southern California Edison (SCE) did a survey of future power requirements, considering existing units, regulatory compliance, probable lifespan and how much power would be provided by renewable sources and concluded that 215-290 megawatts would be required in Ventura County. It requested bids from multiple companies and two proposals surfaced, one in Moorpark and one in Oxnard, by NRG at the existing Mandalay Beach site. The plan is counting heavily on having a third of all California electricity produced by renewable sources by 2020.

What about the old plants?

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NRG Mandalay Beach plant. (Photo: CitizensJournal.us)

 

The ancient, massive existing plants would remain standing, unless an agreement was concluded for their removal. NRG says it is under no legal obligation to do so, but is very receptive to negotiating a “community benefits agreement” with Oxnard for that and other amenities to be discussed. There has been talk about beach facilities, too. The City Council’s position was to not do any negotiations at all with NRG and to stonewall and hold out for project rejection. However, both parties revealed that “discussions” have taken place and that they are “talking.”

Similar cases exist where old “white elephant” vacant plants have remained standing. Morro Bay is an example. Of course, one way or another, we would either pay to have them taken down- included in the electric rates, or government expense, or through a developer which might have control of the land in the future- or leave them standing. Project opponents are looking for a legal way to force NRG to pay for removal and are also attempting to use moral arguments. NRG continues to say that they’ll address it if Oxnard agrees to the project and negotiates a community services agreement.

MandalayPower

NRG Mandalay Beach site, highlighted in yellow

 

 

Other CJ articles on power plant situation HERE

NRG’s project “Fact Sheet

CPUC application  file

Existing Mandalay Beach plant

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George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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