(CA) 456-megawatt energy facility planned near Palm Springs

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Paperwork submitted for second power plant

456-megawatt energy facility planned near Palm Springs

By Lukas Velush

The Desert Sun

June 5th, 2001

A second major power plant proposed in north Palm Springs has been submitted to the California Energy Commission and could be generating power by August 2002.

Wildflower Energy LP of Houston, Texas, a project of Boston-based InterGen, filed an application last week to build the Ocotillo Energy Facility just off of Dillon Road between Highway 62 and Indian Avenue.

The energy commission has 15 days to find out if the application is in good standing. If accepted, the commission will review the project under Gov. Gray Davis’ four-month, streamlined review process for large power plants.

The commission would hold several public hearings in the Coachella Valley and seek public comment on the proposal. The energy commission has scheduled a tentative hearing to vote on the proposal for Oct. 11.

InterGen’s original proposal was to build a 900-megawatt plant under California’s one-year review process for major plants.

Instead, the company applied to build a 456-megawatt plant that it will expand to 900 megawatts later.

"What we’re doing is responding to the state’s critical need for power," said Robert Hren, InterGen’s vice president for development and project leader for the Ocotillo plant.

That willingness to move fast is being well received by state officials who have been spending about $50 million per day on the open market for electricity just to buy power to meet the state’s daily needs.

"This is the kind of process that will get new megawatts on-line as much as eight months earlier than the 12-month (review) process," said Mary Ann Costamagna, a spokeswoman for the California Energy Commission. "Each of these are important to help California meet future demand."

The Ocotillo plant would be located about two miles from InterGen’s 135-megawatt Indigo Energy Facility. That plant was approved in 21 days earlier this year under similar streamlined approval process for new power plants.

The Indigo plant is currently under construction and is expected begin generating power in July.

Hren said the Ocotillo plant would be boosted up to a 900 megawatts by 2004 by amending the application.

The first 456 megawatts can be built faster because they will use simple-cycle technology, Hren said.

Simple-cycle refers to burning natural gas without recycling the heat that’s produced in the process to generate more power.

The 444 megawatts of new power will be generated by using excess heat generated from the plant to create steam, and then more power. That’s called combined-cycle technology.

The power plant will use little water until it adds the combined-cycle technology. Then it will start using the amount two typical golf courses use.

InterGen is negotiating to get 40 percent to 60 percent of that water by buying Mission Springs Water District’s treated wastewater.

The California Assembly Appropriations Committee refused to pass Assembly Bill 1331 last week, a bill that would have helped the Desert Hot Springs-area water district expand its waste water capabilities.

"That additional water is not critical to us," Hren said, indicating that the city will be able to provide at least 40 percent of the power plant’s water needs. "We’ll be able to use all of their waste water."

The plant may get the rest of the water it needs by pumping from the aquifer, something that many valley residents are concerned about. They’re also concerned about the dust and other air pollutants the power plants will emit.

"My concern is that they may start dipping into the groundwater," said John W. Martin, a resident of Thousand Palms. "We’re already over-drafting our aquifer at a rapid rate."

The Sierra Club has similar views.

"As these things get more and more and bigger and bigger, we become more and more concerned about aquifer overdraft and air quality in both the Coachella Valley and Joshua Tree National Park," said Jeff Morgan, local vice chairman for The Tahquitz Group of the Sierra Club.

-- PHO (owennos@bigfoot.com), June 05, 2001

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