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California to open 5 natural gas plants to avoid blackouts


FILE - California to open 5 natural gas plants to avoid blackouts (Photo: Stephen Hawkins / Sinclair Broadcasting){br}
FILE - California to open 5 natural gas plants to avoid blackouts (Photo: Stephen Hawkins / Sinclair Broadcasting)
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California officials say five temporary gas-fueled generators will be set up around existing power plants throughout the state to avoid blackouts and boost the state's grid.

This is a move in the opposite direction from California's big push toward "green" renewable energy.

“We cannot keep the lights on without additional natural gas and the state’s been forced to go out and find it in an emergency situation," said Assemblymember Jim Patterson.

Hopefully, this means no more flex alerts and rolling blackouts for people here in the Central Valley and across the state.

This move is big but it's not a huge surprise.

Back in July Governor Newsom issued a state of emergency to relieve stress on our power grid.

He ordered solar, wind, and other green power projects to speed up completion and also temporarily removed some air quality rules, paving the way for more fossil fuels to be put into action.

"The very electrons, natural gas, that the California politicians are trying to eliminate are now the very electrons that California is now saying we need 150 additional megawatts of that natural gas," said Assemblymember Patterson.

Assemblymember Patterson says the state’s new project shows it needs natural gas to keep the lights on.

"California has been gambling that we can have a grid that can supply the fifth largest economy in the planet with enough electricity primarily from wind and solar," said Assemblymember Patterson, "Now, the problem with that is that wind and solar is not baseload, it is intermittent load, it is a supply that goes away when we need it the most."

High heat and record drought conditions combined with a high risk of wildfires have created a situation where demand reaches its peak and threatens the whole grid. As a result, the Department of Water Resources says its working on launching five temporary power generators by mid-September.

"Had we recognized that nuclear, that building up our hydroelectric capability and also making sure that we didn’t close down the existing natural gas plants that we had, we would not be in this difficulty," said Assemblymember Patterson.

With a current price tag of $171.5 million, each unit will produce about 30 MW of power for a total of 150 MW powered by natural gas.

"Natural gas, you can turn it on when you need it, you can use it at any time of the day or night, it is readily available, it is relatively affordable and it burns relatively cleanly," said Assemblymember Patterson, "California has been forced to do this because we now have growing demand on a grid that has flattening supplies and that has caused these flex alerts.”

DWR says the units will have the capability of running on an up to 75% hydrogen blend in the future, depending on hydrogen availability.

"So we'll meet our current needs, and you know, we'll have the capability to utilize in future fuel blends of hydrogen as we move forward in our clean energy goals," said Ted Craddock, Deputy Director of the State Water Project with the DWR.

"My hunch is that this is not going to be temporary, my hunch is that this will be 150 MW that will be essential and necessary for a long time to come," said Assemblymember Patterson.

So far in 2021, we’ve seen six flex alerts, the most we’ve seen in the past 13 years.

"What kind of power grid are we creating if it cannot be what Californians have been used to for as long as they’ve been Californians, up until very recently," said Assemblymember Patterson, "Electricity we can afford on a grid that is stable for an economy that is growing.”

DWR says two units will go to Roseville and two more will be in Yuba City. The third location hasn’t been officially announced but Assemblymember Patterson says it’ll be in Fresno.

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Cal-ISO says 1 megawatt meets the demand for 750 homes, which means 150 MW will meet the need for 108 thousand homes.

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