LODI – The Lodi Energy Center is big, bright, shiny and brand new. And millions of Californians will benefit from it.
“LEC is the future of clean, reliable energy, not just for the individual communities and agencies represented here today, but for the entire state of California,” James Pope, the Northern California Power Agency general manager, said during today’s dedication ceremony. “This facility will come online quickly, burn less fuel and produce fewer emissions.”
The 300-megawatt Lodi Energy Center will power 300,000 homes once it goes online next month. It will be kinder to the environment than coal-burning electricity plants, because technology allows it to fire up in a fraction of the time. And it will burn natural gas to turn one turbine and the “waste heat” from that turbine will be used to turn a second turbine.
“This innovative fast-ramping, gas-fired plant was specifically designed by Siemens as a solution to balance fluctuations on diverse power grids managing both renewable and traditional energy sources,” said Mario Azar, president of Energy Solutions Americas for Siemens, which provided the turbines. “Its clean footprint and versatility makes it an ideal solution to the growing need for stable and environmentally friendly power sources in the U.S. and around the globe.
“We are proud to be introducing this groundbreaking technology in partnership with NCPA,” Azar added.
NCPA, a collection of agencies such as the Modesto Irrigation District and municipal utilities such as Lodi’s, built the $388 million plant off North Thornton Road over the past couple years. Agency officials said it will be the cleanest and most efficient combined-cycle natural gas-fueled power plant in California, if not the nation.
And being adjacent the White Slough Water Pollution Control Facility solves two problems – having ready water for cooling the plant and finding a use for the waste water from the waste water facility.
The facility will provide electricity to the state Department of Water Resources, Bay Area Rapid Transit, and participating municipal utilities from Plumas County to Southern California.
And the power will be more reliable than electricity generated by solar or wind operations.
The state Independent System Operator , which manages much of the state’s power grid and issued a Flex Alert for the weekend because of expected high energy demand due to triple-digit temperatures, believes LEC can make the state’s grid more reliable.
ISO President and CEO praised LEC for providing a reliable energy source in the state’s growing energy portfolio that includes an increasing percentage of solar and wind operations that are dependent on the weather for power generation.
“The Lodi Energy Center’s cutting edge technology will help strengthen electrical system reliability as variable renewable resources continue to be deployed,” Berberich said.
“The Lodi Energy Center will provide grid reliability to the Central Valley, while integrating renewable resources,” said state Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller. “This is the future for fast-start gas-fired combined cycle power plants in the country.”
While residential, commercial and agricultural energy users will benefit once the plant comes online, the economic impact of the plant has been felt for the past two years. More than 300 skilled laborers, tradesmen, and managers worked at the site. By agreement, at least 80 percent of those workers came from within 50 miles of Lodi to ensure that the local economy benefited from LEC’s construction. Providing local employment was a key.
“NCPA’s emphasis on hiring local workers to build the LEC has produced tremendous benefits for the Lodi-area economy, both in terms of creating a significant number of high-quality local jobs and providing a reliable and affordable source of electricity for the state,” said Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, a Lodi native whose district includes the Lodi area.
“The Lodi Energy Center is providing tremendous benefits that reach far beyond providing an affordable and reliable energy supply for the ratepayers of the city of Lodi,” said Lodi City Councilman Larry Hansen, also a NCPA commissioner. “The positive impacts will continue to be felt for years throughout our community and the state.”
NCPA and the city partnered to buy wastewater from the White Slough Water Pollution Control Facility since LEC will use only reclaimed water for steam generation and the cooling system. That turns the water into an economic asset rather than a liability.
Hansen also said that the city received sales tax on the generating equipment and a multi-decade lease since LEC lists on city-owned land. That extends the economic impact for decades to come.
Pick up the next edition of the Central Valley Business Journal for more on this story.