NRG subsidiary to shut down Oxnard Mandalay power plants this year

By George Miller

NRG Communications Director David Knox, in an interview with CitizensJournal.us today, told us that GenOn, a wholly-owned NRG subsidiary which owns the Mandalay and Ormond Beach power generation plants, will be shutting down all three Mandalay units at the end of this year. READ FILING: Mandalay Retirement. They will be placing the units in inactive safe status and have no plans to dismantle them. Genon is in bankruptcy proceedings and will be spun-off (sold) from parent company NRG.

NRG’s Oxnard Mandalay plants 1, 2 & 3  will be shut down at year-end but will not be removed. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

When asked why this was happening, Knox told us that expensive upcoming inspections and the impending forced shutdown of the plants, since seawater cooling will no longer permitted after 2020, mean it is no longer economically feasible to operate Mandalay 1+ 2 units, which are gas-fired steam and seawater cooled.

Most people are not aware that there are actually four power generation units at Mandalay Beach. Units 1+2 are the large, highly visible ones with the tall smokestack. Unit 3 is a smaller gas turbine combustion unit, which has a separate, expiring operating contract. No offer has been forthcoming to bid on a new contract, so GenOn will also be retiring that one at year-end.

A fourth 45 megawatt peaker unit nearby was only built by SCE (Southern California Electric) a few years ago and will not be affected by any of this, as it is owned and operated by SCE and is said to be compliant with all laws. 

The units at Ormond Beach must be shut down by 2020-end in any case, as they are also seawater-cooled units. It does not appear to be economically feasible to retrofit these. NRG had already planned to shut down these units in 2020. Currently, they are set through September, 2018 and it is unknown how much longer than that they would run.

NRG had planned to replace all of their Oxnard units with a single 262 megawatt gas turbine peaker plant under their “Puente Project” proposal. The “Puente” (bridge in Spanish) referred to an interim technology until 100% renewable power might be practical in the future,. Evidently, SCE, CPUC and NRG thought that this milestone was somewhat off in the future, since they went with the gas turbine peaker plant, which is far cleaner than the existing units.

Mandalay plant unit 3 is a gas turbine generator housed in this building. Photo: George Miller/Citizensjournal.us

 

The fourth and newest unit at Mandalay Bay is a 45 megawatt peaker plant, owned and operated by SCE, with no connection with NRG or GenOn. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Plants 1+2 were only marginally feasible anyway, because they are old technology baseload power plants which were repurposed as peaker plants later. They are not very efficient and have very long start-up times, which make them less responsive to fluctuations in power demand and even less efficient. They are only operated a small percentage of the time.

 

Opponents overjoyed

As recently as the Tuesday October 17 Oxnard City Council meetings, project opponents such as Mayor Pro-tem Carmen Ramirez and Mayor Tim Flynn were only cautiously optimistic that the opposition of two California Energy Commission members meant that there was a good chance that the new Puente Project would not be approved. There are numerous stories in CitizensJournal.us about the long fight over the Mandalay and Ormond Beach power plants. With this new announcement they see an additional victory, although the Puente Project is not dead.

We asked Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez, one of the most visible opponents, for a statement and received only this: “Sorry I have only a couple of hours to complete some work on a case but just will wait to see what NRG officially files with the Energy Commission in two weeks. Thanks.”

 

Where does NRG go from here?

We asked Mr. Knox where NRG will go from here. He said that GenOn will be out of the equation, as they are being spun off. He said that the bulletin from the two Energy Commission members opposed to the Puente Project new technology gas turbine replacement provided no specifics on reasons for opposition. The company wants to see more information before they can decide on future courses of action. They have requested a suspension of the application process fairly recently. Oxnard opposition activists are resisting the suspension because they want to bring the process to closure.

NRG’s courses might include appealing the decision, modifying the proposal, or responding to an entire new RFO, which might call for renewables technology. NRG, being one of the largest and most technologically broad power generation compaies in the nation, could address almost any approach.

When asked if he believed the Puente Project proposal was compliant with all laws, he was confident that it was compliant or any issues could be mitigated.. 

NRG has no plans or legal obligations to dismantle the old units. They had agreed to do so if the Puente Project was approved, though.  

 

George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.


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