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LADWP to buy geothermal power


From the April 25, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published April 25, 2013

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will enter a power purchase agreement to buy 14 megawatts of  geothermal renewable energy – enough clean energy to serve 19,000 Los Angeles homes, the utility said. The purchase will avoid 64,100 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, roughly equivalent to removing 12,300 cars off the road each year, LADWP said.

Early this month, the Los Angeles City Council approved LADWP’s 20-year power sales agreement with the Southern California Public Power Authority for geothermal energy from the Wild Rose Geothermal Power Plant, which is under construction in Mineral County, Nev.

LADWP will receive 85 percent of the plant’s total 16 MW output, representing 114 gigawatt-hours annually; the city of Burbank Water and Power will receive the remaining output. The Wild Rose project is being developed by an affiliate of Ormat Technologies, Inc. and is expected to be in commercial operation by the end of 2013.

Citing the advantages of geothermal power, LADWP General Manager Ronald O. Nichols said the Wild Rose purchase agreement is an important next step in LADWP’s transition away from coal.

"Unlike wind and solar, which only generate power when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, a geothermal plant produces energy continuously, so we can rely on it for base load renewable power, 24/7," Nichols said. "This makes it an ideal renewable energy as part of our replacement of coal power."

The plant is expected to produce power at 95 percent or more of its capacity year-round – a higher capacity than the wind or solar renewable energy resource, the Los Angeles utility said. "Because of its predictability, geothermal also saves on transmission and other integration costs, as compared to variable renewables like wind and solar power," the utility said.

LADWP recently announced it will stop receiving coal power by 2025, and replace it with a combination of renewable energy, energy efficiency measures, and efficient natural gas as a bridge fuel to provide reliability (see related story, above). As part of the major power supply transformation, LADWP said it will also completely eliminate the use of ocean water cooling at its three coastal power plants while rebuilding them to improve reliability and integration with renewable energy.

LADWP has been building a renewable energy portfolio of wind, solar and now geothermal power. The municipal utility said it achieved 20 percent renewables in 2010 and is on track to supply 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2016, and 33 percent by 2020. The geothermal energy from Wild Rose will provide approximately 0.5 percent of LADWP’s renewable energy goals.

The power sales agreement is the result of a competitive process initiated in January 2011 by SCPPA, a non-profit joint powers agency whose members include 11 municipal utilities in Southern California. 

"This agreement provides a long-term, reliable renewable power supply for Los Angeles," said Aram Benyamin, LADWP's senior assistant general manager for power. "Given the advantages of geothermal energy and the way it will interconnect with LADWP’s transmission system, this is a very good fit for L.A."


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