PG & E; Facility Will
A new power plant in Otay Mesa will not only help lay the foundation for increased investment in the area, but also may be a showcase for new technology that makes it the cleanest power plant in the country.
The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously April 12 to recommend the California Energy Commission approve the project. The plant would be located on 46 acres on the remote eastern portion of Otay Mesa near the base of the San Ysidro Mountains, about 1 & #733; miles from the Mexican border.
Approval for the power plant could come this year, with a projected groundbreaking by December and a targeted opening in summer or fall of 2002, said Sharon Segner, manager of project development for PG & E; Generating.
PG & E; Generating, a subsidiary of PG & E; Corp., is developing the proposed 500-megawatt natural-gas fired power plant. The plant will play a major role in meeting the region’s critical need for electricity while helping to protect the San Diego region’s air quality, Segner said.
The plant would have several benefits for the region. It would represent a $300 million to $350 million investment into the Otay Mesa area, and contribute about $3 million annually to the property tax rolls, she said.
More importantly, the power plant would make other investment in Otay Mesa possible, Segner said.
“Put a power plant in; you’ve got good electrical reliability in the area. You put a power plant in; you’ve got sewer lines now. You put a power plant in; you’ve got gas lines. And so there’s a whole infrastructure and a property tax base that a power plant provides,” she said.
Will Stabilize Energy Needs
The plant will also help stabilize the electrical load for the entire area. Currently, San Diego imports electrical power generated elsewhere. However, the electric lines through which power is transmitted are nearing their capacity. Also, the areas San Diego imports its power from are growing and requiring more power themselves.
“Today, San Diego is viewed as one of the most high-risk areas in the state from an electrical reliability standpoint,” Segner said. “San Diego is viewed to be 300 megawatts short of power today. So what Otay Mesa represents is meeting an existing and future need for power.”
There is also room for expansion beyond the initial 500 megawatts in the future, Segner said.
Ed Van Herik, a spokesman for San Diego Gas & Electric Co., noted that the county’s current electrical supply is projected to remain reliable up to about 2004. After that time, additional steps will need to be taken, he said.
Building additional plants would not be an option for SDG & E;, since it is no longer in the electrical generation business. The company sold off its San Diego County power plants last year as a condition of the merger that formed Sempra Energy, Van Herik said.
The plant is also designed to be environmentally friendly. Compared against San Diego County’s two existing natural gas and fuel-oil plants , a 700-megawatt facility in Chula Vista and a 900-megawatt in Carlsbad , the Otay Mesa facility could be as much as 40 times cleaner, Segner said.
The new facility would generate about 100 tons of pollution a year, as opposed to the 1,000 to 1,200 tons at the other two plants, Segner said.
Also, unlike the other two plants, which were built with 1970s technology, the Otay Mesa plant would not require water cooling for its turbines, Segner said. That means the facility can be built inland, in an isolated location away from the ocean.
It also means the plant will save a few million dollars a year on its water bills, she said.
The investment in state-of-the-art technology is what it takes to build a new power plant in California. The Golden State is one of the hardest states in which to build a power plant because of environmental regulations.
“We think environmental issues and environmental stewardship are pivotal and vital to successful siting in San Diego,” she said. “That’s what San Diego demands. We’re very proud of what this plant represents from an environmental standpoint.”
Segner noted the plant has received broad-based support from the community.
Supervisor Greg Cox, who represents the 1st District, said the proposed generating plant is an important lynchpin in the efforts to create new jobs on East Otay Mesa. The board’s endorsement of the project made it a “historic day for San Diego,” he said.
“This project will provide the necessary foundation for smart growth and will bring high-paying jobs into East Otay Mesa for South Bay residents,” Cox said.