Oxnard: Debates coastal power plant proposal

MandalayPowerPlant

Mandalay Beach power plant

By George Miller

NRG, the largest independent electric power generation company in the nation and owner/operator of the Mandalay and Ormond Beach power plants, wants to build another one, on the existing Mandalay site and eventually tear down the existing ones. At this point, the city and operator both agree that the old plants are outdated and should go. NRG wants to run it a while longer to get as much payback as possible, but recognizes that the technology is outmoded and operating costs are too high for long term feasibility. They were originally sited on the coast for lower cost fuel delivery and water cooling. Some residents and officials feel the plants are unsightly and environmenttally unsound.

The existing plants only run intermittently, to supply peak needs and if other key assets are offline. The gas burning plants are fairly clean and have only minimal thermal impact on the ocean waters.

Resident Steve Nash complained about water intakes killing sea creatures. CJ later asked an NRG rep about better intake equipment to address that and did not receive a satisfactory answer, but it is discussed HERE (in section 5). Oxnard Chamber of Commerce CEO Nancy Lindholm said an energy production moratorium might also prohibit solar, wave and wind power generation and asked if it just the existing generation stations being targeted.  She asked whether owners would be required to move the power plants. Marine biologist Tom McCormick says NRG is a good neighbor.  Multiple construction tradesmen, such as Martin Rodrigues and Bill Cobus, want the jobs/economic activity the plants would provide. Bill Terry is opposed to it.

An NRG representative, Chris Curry, asked for approval of the plant, pointed out the significant economic boost provided by construction, ongoing operation, residents employed, spending on outsourced services and materials, said new plant would be green, efficient and sustainable.

City Council members present seemed to be leaning toward a moratorium but some seemed receptive to hearing public input. Per City Attorney Fisher: The 2030 General Plan- policy on coastal power plants, may need to be re-evaluated, as the land designation was not changed. Councilwoman Ramirez said sea rise will cover Harbor Boulevard and that millions of dollars are required to restore wetlands. Dr. Williamson said LTP needs to be updated. Mayor Flynn suggested that a moratorium could be put in effect until LTP is completed.

There are also other companies vying to build power plants in the region. Moorpark recently voted against doing one in their city- read: https://citizensjournal.us/moorpark-nixes-new-power-plant/. The work would be done under Southern California Edison, which needs to add about two gigawatts to the total power generation capacity of the region to meet forecast needs.

No plan, description, or even where it would be built was provided by Council or staff with the agenda or at the meeting.

There are currently three plants on two sites:

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Ormond Beach power station

Ormond Beach

1- 1516MW in two gas fired steam generators, NOx reduction equipped, OSHA VPP Star site

 

 

 

 

 

MandalayPower

Mandalay Beach

2- Old- 614MW rated capacity in 2 gas-fired steam units, 8.2% utilization

3- New gas turbine peaker plant- 45MW

 4- Proposed 290MW new technology plant

Here’s an older upgrade study on upgrading the main Mandalay plant.

 

 

 

 

Some pro’s and con’s collected during the meeting and afterward:

Con

– Plants are unsightly and disturb the natural scenery

– The older plants’ water intakes disturb marine life

– The older plants are taking up valuable coastal real estate

– Some claim global rise will flood them

– Not as clean or renewable as solar or wind power

 Pro

– Power sources right in town

– 80 on-site jobs, 200+ construction jobs, numerous outsourced services jobs, multiplier effect

– $25 million economic input to community, salaries, taxes, fees, etc.

– Beaches at plants already available for use by public

– Infrastructure- gas, power, transmission lines, physical plant are all in place

– New plant on existing grounds, lower profile, more efficient, cleaner

– Plants are sited up high, much of Oxnard would flood before them

– Far more reliable and cheaper than solar or wind power

– Good neighbor

 

 Later input from NRG

CJ contacted NRG and posed some questions. We didn’t get answers for everything, but here’s what we have, primarily from Tony Cordero, Director of External Affairs, NRG Energy West.

NRG Oxnard plants contribute at least $25 million annually in economic benefit to the community, not even including the “multiplier effect” of that money. Approximately 80 jobs are now provided. Hundreds more would be provided by the construction of the new technology plant at the Mandalay site and demolition of the existing old-technology old units at the Mandalay and Ormond Beach plants. This work would take place over about four years and workers would be paid union wages. Demolition would remove the structures closest to the beach, freeing up more prime land for beach-goers. etc. The beach is already available for use by the public, but this would improve accessibility.

He said that their intent is to listen and work with the entire community and address their concerns. He said that theirs is the first concrete proposal ever to address stakeholders’ concerns and that no one had ever done this before.

NRG is not obligated to demolish the old plants, just to shut them down, but would be receptive to be doing so if a win-win agreement can be reached. When CJ asked if they would provide a beach parking lot and facilities at Mandalay, the response was that they have made no such commitment, but were willing to consider that as part of an overall solution.

He also pointed out that the company is the most “progressive” energy company in the nation and the “greenest” power producer in California, with the highest solar and wind output of any independent producer in the state.  They envision gas powered generators as an integral part of the green strategy, since these are less subject to the vagaries of the wind and sun, so they would provide “insurance.”  The state requires that 33% of electric power be produced via “renewable” sources by 2020.

NRG recognizes the age (Mandalay plant was built in 1959) of the facilities and wants to work with the city to make something happen. Modifications would meet “Track II” compliance, for a 93% reduction of water use. Track 1, a more demanding target, would be met by shutting down the plants by the December 2020 deadline.

CJ asked for NRG’s opinion on comments that sea rise may inundate Harbor Boulevard. We asked him why such a well-run company wishes to make such a large long-term capital investment in such a hazardous area. Mr. Cordero declined to comment on this.

 NRG comp chart

 

 

 

 

Council voted unanimously to “agendize” this for next week. We subsequently understood that this will be discussed again at the July 1 meeting.

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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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