GE unit says 750-MW Calif. gas plant no longer economic

Saying the plant is no longer economic in an evolving California energy market, a unit of General Electric is seeking to decommission and demolish a 750-megawatt power plant in California, according to a regulatory filing.

Current plans call for the power plant site to be taken over by a new owner that intends to turn it into a battery energy storage facility.

In the June 19 filing with the California Energy Commission, Inland Empire Energy Center LLC, the project company for the Inland Empire Energy Center, said the natural gas-fired combined-cycle plant is no longer economic in the California energy market.

Inland Empire Energy Center LLC is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of General Electric.

The plant, in Menifee in Riverside County, sells energy to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) on a merchant basis and has capacity agreements under California’s Resource Adequacy (RA) program.

The RA commitments are met by Unit 1 of the plant and extend through December 31, 2019. Unit 2 at the plant has been mothballed since March 2017, based on “economic considerations.” GE is seeking to cease operation of the entire plant as of Dec. 31, 2019.

Various media reports noted that the plant would be closed 20 years earlier that scheduled.

Citing reasons for the planned plant closure, the filing said the plant was designed for baseload operations, but California’s energy market has evolved to a market with more of a need for gas plants with fast start capabilities.

In addition, GE also had great hopes for its 7H class turbine, which boasted a 60% thermal efficiency, but those expectations did not materialize resulting in “an orphan technology” that is more expensive to service. In the filing GE says the operation and maintenance costs of the 7H are about two and half times higher than the costs of its widely deployed 7FA turbines. GE said it “will no longer support the 7H units, including the manufacture of replacement parts.”

GE also said it would not be economic to retrofit the Inland plant to enhance its flexibility “owing to a variety of market and regulatory factors that may preclude California utilities or [community choice aggregators] from purchasing energy from fossil fuel plants.”

In February, Inland Empire Energy signed an agreement with Nova Power, which plans to develop an energy storage system at the plant site. Upon approval of the activities described in this Decommissioning and Demolition Plan, the power plant and other facilities will be decommissioned, demolished and removed and the CEC license terminated. Nova will not take possession of the site, however, until decommissioning is completed.

Any equipment or facilities not needed by Nova Power will be decommissioned, dismantled and demolished, a process that is expected to take about 12 months, before the site is turned over to Nova Power, according to the filing.