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Rainbow MWD challenges CEC findings for Orange Grove power plant

Rainbow Municipal Water District board member Rua Petty took advantage of a California Energy Commission (CEC) evidentiary hearing on the proposed Orange Grove Energy power plant to correct information in a CEC document which indicated that the Rainbow district would connect the site to its existing system.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Petty said. “We gave them a water reliability letter, which isn’t a commitment.”

The evidentiary hearing December 19 at the Pala Mesa Resort did not include a decision on licensing, which will be made by the full panel at a later date following a 30-day public review period. The hearing allowed for the presentation of evidence contrary to the CEC staff analysis, which concluded that sufficient information exists to recommend licensing of the 96-megawatt facility.

Orange Grove Energy, LP, has proposed a simple-cycle power plant on a 220-acre site located off Pala Del Norte Road.

The property, which is owned by San Diego Gas & Electric, has A72 agricultural zoning, and an existing SDG&E substation which serves the community of Pala is located on an adjacent parcel to the south. A citrus grove currently exists on the parcel.

Because the output will be between 50 and 100 megawatts, Orange Grove Energy had initially sought a Small Power Plant Exemption (SPPE) to the Application for Certification.

In order to grant an SPPE, the California Energy Commission must find that the plant will not create a substantial impact on the environment, energy resources, the transmission system, or public health.

After applying for the SPPE, Orange Grove Energy introduced changes to the plant which required additional environmental review and eliminated the time-saving benefit of an SPPE, and in April 2008 Orange Grove and the CEC agreed to undergo a full Application for Certification.

The work for the SPPE application was incorporated into the more comprehensive application which examines public health and safety, environmental impacts, and engineering aspects of power plants and related facilities such as transmission lines and natural gas pipelines.

Under the agreement between Orange Grove Energy and SDG&E, Orange Grove will be responsible for constructing the plant and an underground electric transmission line to the Pala substation boundary approximately two-tenths of a mile away.

Orange Grove will operate the plant and will have a tolling agreement with SDG&E for generating electrical power.

The facility is intended for peak periods and was proposed as a response to an SDG&E request for new peak period resources.

The staff analysis indicated that the proposed project would comply with all applicable laws, regulations, ordinances, and standards and that environmental impact can be mitigated to less than significant levels.

The facility would include two 50-megawatt combustion turbine generators, a gas metering station, water, and natural gas pipelines.

It would be fueled by natural gas delivered to the site by a two-mile extension of an existing SDG&E gas line.

Air emissions from the proposed plant would be controlled through technology including a water injection system, a carbon monoxide catalyst, and a selective catalytic reduction system.

Dry cooling technology is proposed for turbine cooling, but General Electric’s power boost technology requires water for power augmentation of the generators. The annual water usage is estimated at 117 acre-feet.

The CEC documentation indicated that the Rainbow Municipal Water District (RMWD) would construct a new 1.8-mile waterline between the existing main and the site boundary which would provide water for the generation process as well as for domestic and sanitary needs.

“That’s not the case,” said RMWD general manager Dave Seymour.

Seymour noted that if Orange Grove pays for the waterline the Rainbow district would provide service. He added that environmental constraints would also exist if such a waterline were to be constructed.

“The board still has to approve giving them water, which we have not,” Petty said.

The current plan is to purchase recycled water from the Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) and transport it to the site.

“They will be buying water from FPUD and they will truck it to their site,” Seymour said. “They need it sooner than any of us could construct facilities out there, so they went to FPUD.”

FPUD currently has an agreement to sell such water to Orange Grove.

“We have excess recycled water available beyond our demands. It’s currently flowing into the ocean and we thought that [the agreement with Orange Grove] would be a good use of resources,” said FPUD general manager Keith Lewinger.

The construction phase of the plant is expected to take approximately six months.

The agreement with FPUD doesn’t prevent Orange Grove from working with the Rainbow district in the future. “We’ve expressed a willingness to work with Orange Grove, and that door is still open,” Seymour said.

“We’ll make every effort to provide them water,” Petty said. “But there’s going to be certain conditions put on that.”

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