San Diego Gas and Electric proposes adding 450 MW of peaking power

Peaker plants are small, efficient power units that can reach full generating capacity within 10 to 15 minutes to meet immediate demand on the grid

San Diego, May 23, 2011 San Diego Gas and Electric filed for regulatory approval of three new power-purchase contracts for a total of 450 MW of quick-start generation from peaker plants proposed for San Diego County.

Peaker plants are small, efficient power units that can reach full generating capacity within 10 to 15 minutes to meet immediate demand on the grid.

The new plants — Pio Pico Energy Center, LLC (Apex Power Group); Quail Brush Generation Project (Cogentrix Energy, LLC); and Escondido Energy Center, LLC (Wellhead) — are the selected projects that met the specifications of SDG&E's 2009 solicitation for conventional generation.

In addition to helping to integrate renewables with other generation sources, the new peaking units also will be called on when demand for power is highest, such as on a hot, summer day.

The Pio Pico Energy Center project consists of three natural gas-fired combustion turbine units, which, at about 100 MW each, are twice as large as a typical peaker and can power up faster and more efficiently.

The proposed project will be built on about 10 acres of land near the existing Otay Mesa Energy Center.

The California Energy Commission began its review of the Pio Pico project in April 2011. The CEC is responsible for reviewing, and ultimately approving or denying, all applications for power plants with a maximum capacity of 50 MW. If Pio Pico is approved, construction should start in the first quarter of 2013 and the units could be online by summer 2014.

The 100-MW Quail Brush Generation Project consists of 11 natural gas-fired engines that generate about 9 MW each. The plant will be built near the Sycamore Canyon landfill in San Diego and, because it is made up of a number of small units, can operate anywhere between 5 MW and 100 MW as needed.

The plant should start producing electricity in May 2014 and will provide power and transmission support to SDG&E's customers for 20 years.

The Escondido Energy Center is a repowering of an existing facility and includes the installation of a new 45-MW combustion turbine generator, which replaces a vintage gas turbine generator.

The new unit will be built at the same site as Wellhead's existing facility in Escondido. SDG&E has a 25-year purchase power agreement with Wellhead for the output of the plant, which is scheduled to be online in July 2012.

Avery said the highly efficient performance of the new peaker plants will help SDG&E to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and to contribute toward the state's overall GHG reduction goal.

All the contracts require approval of state regulators.

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