Oxnard power plant operator tells its side of the story on proposed plant

NRGLogoBy George Miller

NRG Corp. is the operator of the power generation plants in Oxnard, totaling over 2000 MW (Megawatts) capacity and the only generation plants in Ventura County.  Today, they stated their case to build a much smaller, new technology and “greener” (EPA-compliant gas-fired, air-cooled)  replacement unit at the Mandalay site. Tony Cordero, Public Affairs Director, conducted a presentation and Q&A session at the Tower Club in Oxnard.  The classroom sized room was full and was one of four such sessions to be held to tell their side of the story.  While the meeting was by invitation NRG 031only, no one seemed to be turned away at the door and there were opponents there.

This report summarizes the NRG position and some audience questions/answers.

NRG provided glossy color brochures stating a very abbreviated case for the plant: “reclaim coastline,” electric reliability, money to the local economy in jobs and tax revenue for plant operation and construction, new state-of-the-art plant, smaller environmental and aesthetic footprint.

Marsh landing

Marsh Landing Plant, Antioch, CA.  800-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant with four 200-megawatt simple cycle units

The company proposes to build a new-technology, smaller footprint, “shorter”, setback more from the beach, greener, regulatory compliant, 290 megawatt power plant and tear down  the existing 1950’s vintage Mandalay plant and the slightly newer Ormond Beach plant. NRG will request on Tuesday that the Oxnard City Council authorize a 90 day negotiation period before putting any moratorium in effect.

They are not required to tear down the two older plants but are proposing this in return for project approval.  Cordero stated that they could run the existing plants as long as they could be kept in compliance. Separately, CJ had previously asked if NRG would consider building a parking lot and beach facilities for residents. The response was they would consider it as part of the total, negotiated  package.

NRG claims to be the largest California natural gas generating, the largest solar energy provider and the largest wind independent energy provider in California. They have done self- sufficient facility power projects for SDSU and others as well as providing car charging stations.

MandalayPowerPlant

Existing 1950’s vintage Mandalay plant

NRG 020

Existing small 49 MW “peaker plant”

Cordero said that NRG is reputable and would execute a legally binding agreement to do everything negotiated. He also stated that a similar deal had been made with Carlsbad to replace a far bigger, uglier plant even closer to the beach.

Cordero cited the advantage of having local power availability, economic benefits and a much cleaner, more attractive facility and having the old plants taken down, something never before proposed by any other operator.

Starting in the 1950’s, Edison had a chain of plants built along the Southern California Coast, up to Oxnard. They were placed there because Ocean water cooled facilities were the best solution at the time. Many object to the plants’ environmental “footprint” and aesthetics.  Interesting point: Per Cordero, except for an NRG 48 MW “peaker” plant in Goleta, there is no other facility feeding the power grid between here and Diablo Canyon plant (nuclear and days are numbered).

He said a survey was taken by SCE and they determined that the “Big Creek Energy Load Pocket” (that’s what they call our power region) needed another 290 MW in the area, after the new “renewable” power is put in place. He explained that gas-fired units will provide the most reliable baseline power when the solar and wind units aren’t online (when there’s insufficient sun and wind).  The state has mandated that 33% of electric power be “renewable” by 2020.  The idea that 33% may not be available by then didn’t even come up. The far higher cost of renewable energy was only alluded to indirectly and not discussed.  Gas-fired power will pull down the average cost significantly.

Moorpark power plant

Recently proposed 250MW plant in Moorpark, CA

In response to a question about similar plants, the Marsh Landing plant in Antioch was cited as a recent example (see photo above). Another power plant proposal for a roughly similarly sized plant, was recently rejected by the Moorpark city council. Read CJ story: https://citizensjournal.us/moorpark-nixes-new-power-plant/

Resident Dennis O’Leary, a school Board Trustee for Oxnard Unified School District (he was not speaking for them) later told CJ that Oxnard Mayor Pro-tem Ramirez told him that bids will be opened in 60 days, with the implication being that the 90 day negotiation period proposed by NRG is not possible. It would be a small matter to make any bid contingent upon agency approvals, which one would suspect they are planning to do anyway.

Previous CJ article on Mandalay power plant proposal:

NRG 021

Canal providing cooling water and also circulation for Channel Islands Harbor.

https://citizensjournal.us/oxnard-status-quo-budget-approved-4-3-residents-discuss-power-plant-proposal/

Another good question: What will become of the canal providing cooling water and also providing circulation for Channel Islands Harbor, regardless of what happens with the power plant? Turns out it is owned by a company in Texas and leased for its current purpose.

As far as we know, the project would need to be approved by the California Energy Commission, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Coastal Commission. We heard that the state may be able to overrule localities on such a project, but haven’t confirmed that.

There will be a discussion and possible vote on a power plant construction moratorium at the Tuesday 7/1/14 City Council meeting. We’ll be there and bet that there will be other opinions expressed. Send your own ([email protected]) or post comments right under this article!

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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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