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New power plant may mean millions for Palmdale

Expected to produce 600-plus megawatts of electricity

Merdies Hayes | 7/5/2013, midnight

Palmdale expects to enter the nation’s “clean energy” sweepstakes with its new hybrid power plant which, upon completion, could inject $5 million annually into the local economy. There’s even the chance that, once the plant is sold to a private operator, Palmdale could receive upward of $27 million, which would allow for an expansion of general fund programs such as law enforcement and parks allotments. Commercial operation could begin this summer.

The power plant, officially the Palmdale Hybrid Power Plant (PHPP), is located south of East Avenue M in the northernmost region of Palmdale bounded by Sierra Highway to the west, East Avenue M (Columbia Way) to the north, and U.S. Air Force Plant 42 on the south and east. It is expected to produce just over 600 megawatts of electricity, or enough to supply power to about 500,000 homes and possibly help hold down the costs of generating electricity in the Antelope Valley.

By utilizing solar energy, the plant will combine the clean burning natural gas fired turbine technology (much more efficient than traditional coal-fired turbines), thereby resulting in a fully integrated “hybrid” design, reportedly the first of its kind in the world.

Briefly, here’s how it works: The combined-cycle equipment utilizes two natural gas-fired combustion turbine generators (CTG), two heat recovery steam generators (HRSG), and one steam turbine generator (STG). The solar thermal equipment uses an array of parabolic collectors to heat a high-temperature working fluid. This hot fluid is used to boil water to generate steam, while the combined-cycle equipment is integrated thermally with the solar equipment at the HRSG, and both will utilize the single STG that is part of the plant itself.

The plant will have a nominal electrical output of 617 megawatts; the solar thermal input will provide about 10 percent of the peak power generated by the plant during the daily periods of highest energy demand. The required natural gas is supplied via an 8.7-mile pipeline to be designed and constructed by the Southern California Gas Co. Because water is a premium asset in this part of the Mojave Desert, the steam turbine will be “wet cooled” using reclaimed water (treated effluent) from local wastewater treatment plants, employing what is called a “zero liquid discharge” system.

The plant is, in effect, part of two power projects in Kern and Los Angeles counties. According to Paul Caudill, president of MidAmerican Solar, “The Antelope Valley Solar Projects are already creating needed jobs and economic opportunity in local communities, while at the same time, providing direct, long-term environmental benefits. We look forward to continuing our involvement in the Rosamond, Lancaster and Palmdale communities.”

MidAmerican Solar owns the Antelope Valley Solar Projects, while SunPower is the designer and developer, as well as handling engineering, procurement and construction. The entire site measures 3,230 acres with the total cost estimated to be $950 million.

And it is about to be sold. A Seattle company, Summit Power Group LLC., is set to buy the rights to the plant for $27.4 million. Summit develops a variety of energy products, including “carbon capture” projects for enhanced oil recovery, natural gas, coal, wind, solar projects and other energy-intensive industrial projects.