Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Lodi Energy Project a powerhouse for the state/ The Record
Lodi center designed to be a powerhouse for chunk of state
LODI - Prefabricated pieces of the 280 megawatt Lodi Energy Center are so massive that the Northern California Power Agency has had to close down Interstate 5 two dozen times over the past year just to transport them from Stockton to the plant.
A two-year, $500 million project - $375 million for construction, plus bond debt service - the power plant is more than halfway to completion, and on track for a June 2012 opening, assistant general manager Ken Speer said.
When done, the 100-foot-tall plant will produce enough energy to serve 13 municipalities in Northern California, including Lodi.
"This is going to be the most efficient power plant in Northern California and probably the state," said Speer. "It will lower greenhouse emissions by 70 percent."
Sitting on a couple of acres near Lodi's wastewater treatment plant, the energy center is coming along as an intricate design of different pipelines, 100,000 feet of underground electrical wiring, and turbines, compressors and generators.
The plant has "fast-start" technology allowing for a one hour boot-up time instead of the typical four hours for a plant its size, Speer said.
The process begins by starting the massive gas turbine engine to produce power. The waste heat from that turbine - or steam - is then sent through the steam turbine to create more energy.
"And if you're at a point where you're producing too much power, you can shut it down," Speer said. "You'd hesitate to shut down another plant, but it will only take an hour here to get back online."
More than 250 construction workers have been on the job during daily construction the past year, a boon to the local economy, proponents said.
That's not to say the power plant has not met some opposition. The Associated Builders and Contractors of California, which speaks on behalf of nonunionized construction workers, has vocally opposed management of the project - but at a political level, not in objection to the purpose of the plant itself.
Kevin Dayton, the contractor group's government affairs director, has criticized a project labor agreement between the Power Authority and the construction workers union, and openly doubts that project leaders have gone to great enough lengths to hire local workers and veterans, which they are required to do.
Speer said the agency has easily met its requirements.
Dayton has cited a payment from the Northern California Power Agency to the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust as a starting point.
"As part of the Project Labor Agreement, the NCPA mailed a $90,000 check in August 2010 to a mysterious union slush fund that subsequently sent letters to local elected officials throughout the state lobbying for more Project Labor Agreements. In other words, NCPA ratepayers are paying to build a power plant and also paying for union political activity," Dayton said.
Locally, the feeling is different. Lodi City Councilman Larry Hansen, who also serves on the Power Authority board, said the project is a boon to the community, both with the jobs it has brought the area and future electrical rates.
"The plant is going to provide close to the city of Lodi's base load, and we can see a lot of potential into the future as far as realizing a competitive (energy) rate," Hansen said. "That's good for the people in Lodi, and that's the bottom line."
Contact reporter Keith Reid at (209) 546-8257 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/lodiblog.