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Power plant addition wins first thumbs-up
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The proposed expansion of the Almond Power Plant southwest of Ceres has received a preliminary thumbs-up from the California Energy Commission.

The staff assessment is not a decision about the plant but will serve as testimony at an evidentiary hearing to be held by the CEC.

If approved by the state agency, the Turlock Irrigation District (TID) would begin construction in the fourth quarter of 2010, continuing for a year, with full-scale operation targeted for late 2011.

About a year ago the TID submitted an Application for Certification for a proposed addition to the existing Almond Power Plant. TID has a 4.6-acre parcel adjacent to the existing 48 megawatt (MW) TID Almond Power Plant located south of Service Road and west of the Ceres wastewater treatment plant.

The application prompted a complete analysis of the project. The staff assessment issued last week says the project would comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations and standards.

The $7.6 million plant would be a natural-gas fired, simple-cycle peaking facility rated at a gross generating capacity of 174 megawatts (MW). General Electric would supply TID with three 58-MW LM6000PG turbines equipped with a water injection system to the turbine in order to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) formation, and a selective catalytic reduction system to further control NOx emissions.

The expansion will quadruple the plant's current output and reduce the district's need to purchase wholesale electricity, helping TID meet its resource adequacy and reserve needs in the future.

According to the California Energy Commission, the state's peak energy demands are growing at the rate of 2.4 percent each year. In 2007, California produced only 70 percent of the energy it consumed and the remainder was imported from other sources. The Almond plant expansion will add up to 150 megawatts (MW) to TID's 50-MW Almond Power Plant. One megawatt is enough electricity to power about 300 homes in summer and about 1,000 in winter.

Power will be transmitted to the grid at 115 kilovolts (kV) through two new transmission lines which will connect to the proposed Grayson Substation which will be located approximately 3,300 feet from the site. The substation is expected to be complete before the project is operational.

The plant addition would use the plant's existing fire protection system, water treatment system, process water supply and wastewater discharge system, and demineralized and reverse osmosis water storage tanks. Like its existing counterpart, the second almond power plant will receive processed water from the Ceres wastewater treatment plant through an existing pipeline, as well as service water for domestic use provided by an existing onsite water well.

To get the required natural gas to burn in the turbines, PG&E will construct an 8-inch natural gas pipeline to their supply line several miles from the site.