Despite a recent setback from the California Coastal Commission, Houston-based NRG Energy is pressing ahead with plans to build a new power plant along the Oxnard coast.
If built, the company claims construction of the facility could have an economic impact of at least $93 million on the region. But the California Coastal Commission handed the company a setback Sept. 9 when it recommended it be built elsewhere because of concerns about climate change.
NRG wants to build a 262-megawatt peaker plant on Mandalay Beach to replace two aging steam generators already at the site. NRG’s plans call for a natural gas-fired power plant that could be fired in minutes and be used for short periods when the electric grid needs additional energy.
New environmental regulations require that seawater-cooled plants stop operations by the end of 2020.
“We have an obligation to hire many local contractors,” Dawn Gleiter, NRG Energy director of sustainable development, told the Business Times before a Sept. 27 public meeting about the proposed plant.
If approved next year by the California Energy Commission, Gleiter said the company plans to use local contractors during construction of the project for things like the building of a 188-foot-tall concrete exhaust tower. Some specialized contractors from outside the region may still be needed.
NRG said it plans to spend $68.4 million on locally purchased materials. Construction is scheduled for October 2018 through June 2020. During that time, NRG projects local construction workers will be paid about $16 million.
Demolition of the existing plant is expected between June 2021 and December 2022. The company expects to spend at least $9 million on local payroll during demolition.
Property taxes for the new generator would increase NRG’s tax bill from about $500,000 which NRG pays on the current plant to $2.8 million annually.
By law, the Coastal Commission must weigh in on power plants built along the coast, but the Energy Commission will ultimately decide where the plant is located.
In its recommendation, the Coastal Commission said the plant should be built on an alternative site outside of 100-year-flood zones where a power plant would not be at risk due to flooding caused by storm waves, coastal erosion or sea level rise caused by climate change.
If the Energy Commission approves the power plant for the Mandalay Beach site, the Coastal Commission recommended NRG implement a sand dune monitoring program to monitor the strength and health of the approximately 20-foot-tall sand dunes that protect the plant.
“In the second half of the century (the plant) is likely to be subject to hazards, including increasingly frequent and severe flooding and shoreline erosion, which will render the facility inoperable,” an Aug. 22 Coastal Commission report said.
If the facility is built, the report recommended NRG have a plan to decommission and remove the plant because of sea level rise.
The report recommends the plant be built at one of several alternative sites, including one near an existing plant on Ormond Beach that is also scheduled to be decommissioned. In June, the Energy Commission issued its own report which said environmental concerns can be mitigated at the Mandalay Beach site.
“The science is clear. You have to be real about it, and this is just not the right place to site something like this,” Coastal Commissioner Erick Howell said at the meeting.
• Contact Philip Joens at [email protected]