Emergencies underscore need for peaker plant
The California Coastal Commission hearing for Southern California Edison Co.’s Oxnard peaker power plant project is planned for Aug. 6.
A peaker kicks in with extra electricity when demand exceeds the supply and the commission should give serious consideration to approving this needed project.
In an area with relatively slow and steady economic growth, this project is particularly vital to make sure that trade and commerce proceed without interruption.
Case in point: the recent Gap Fire in Santa Barbara County cut out power to about 100,000 area residents and businesses over the course of a week when smoke and ash got into the power system. Having a backup source of power could have provided relief to those affected.
Moreover, all our plasma and big-screen televisions, computers, bulky home appliances, cell phone rechargers, and other devices demand more electricity than ever before. This causes particular strain on the power system, particularly in the summer months.
As if to underscore the need for the plant, the July 29 earthquake outside Los Angeles, which sent trembles up and down the Central Coast, was a reminder that in an earthquake-prone zone such as ours, backup power is essential to keep the economy moving.
While solar panels and windmills help fill the energy gap to some extent, they have their limitations.
On the Central Coast, we have the opportunity to continue development and use of alternative and renewable energy sources, but we should also not ignore the power system currently in place.
The proposed peaker site next to the existing Mandalay Generating Station might just be the best location for an emergency unit, especially since it will be hard for the connection between the two to break and no additional transmission lines will be needed.
We are encouraged by claims that peaker power will not be exported out of the area, but will go into the transmission system, which feeds directly into Oxnard.
Despite some opposition from the community, the peaker’s proponents have been able to convince the coastal commission staff that there is broad community support for the project. The commission should take the staff’s comments seriously in considering whether to approve the plant.