Discussion of the future of AES’ Harbor Dr. power plant is again intensifying, as Redondo Beach prepares for a Tuesday visit from a California Energy Commission (CEC) committee responsible for reviewing, and ultimately permitting, the proposed project.
On Oct. 1, the committee will make a 4 p.m. visit to the project site. Afterward, at 5:30 p.m., they will host an informational hearing at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.
Redondo Beach residents and concerned neighbors can attend both the visit and the hearing to gather information about AES’ proposed project and weigh in with comments and concerns. AES Southland will be on hand to explain the nuts and bolts of the project, and CEC staff will be present to delineate the licensing process.
“The hearing will help the committee of two commissioners who are reviewing the project to determine the environmental information that may be needed as part of a thorough project review,” reads a press release distributed by the CEC.
Ahead of the planned visit, lawmakers with a stake in Redondo Beach are issuing public statements regarding the future of AES’ 50 waterfront acres.
In a letter addressed to CEC Chair Robert Weisenmiller and dated Sept. 26, Congressman Henry Waxman asked the CEC to consider a power flow analysis commissioned by the City of Redondo Beach and conducted by Advanced Energy Solutions, which concluded that if the Redondo Beach plant and its associated substations are retired, the California grid can still maintain an adequate energy supply. When an Advanced Energy Solutions consultant announced her conclusion at a City Council meeting, then-president of AES Southland Eric Pendergraft denied its validity, saying her study was “dependent upon assumptions.”
In his Sept. 26 letter, Waxman wrote: “I have long believed we should take this opportunity to permanently retire the power plant in Redondo Beach if it is feasible to do so. Local leaders and residents correctly recognize that there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for redevelopment of this large property adjacent to the waterfront.
“Now there is new evidence from the City of Redondo Beach that indicates that power from the facility is no longer needed… Your work on this issue is critically important.
“It is imperative that we do all we can to cut air pollution in the region, and there is no question that burning fossil fuels causes significant pollution and health impacts. I urge you to review the analysis by Advanced Energy Solutions. Unless you determine that the facility is absolutely essential and there are no feasible alternatives, you should reject the proposal to repower the plant.”
Waxman concludes his letter by asking CEC staff to weigh in on a strategy to redevelop the plant, “one that maximizes the value of the site for the local community while recognizing AES’s investment and treating the company equitably.”
Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, whose constituencies include Redondo Beach, sent a similar letter to Weisenmiller on Sept. 24.
“Unless the power from the proposed facility is needed, and there are no alternatives to fulfill a determined need for the region, I would oppose the power plant at the current site,” his letter reads. “Therefore, it is imperative that the Energy Commission perform a needs analysis as part of the AES application review to determine if the energy is required for the region and state.”
Likewise, on Sept. 4, Senator Ted Lieu wrote to Weisenmiller to advise that he has been following the CEC permitting process “closely.”
“A new power plant will emit significantly more air pollution due to increased operations,” he writes.
“Therefore, if the power from this particular site is not needed for grid reliability and/or there are more effective and less impactful alternative sites, it would affect my decision, and the decisions of many of my constituents, on whether to support or oppose the proposed power plant.
“I am requesting the CEC to perform a needs analysis to ensure power is actually required from this particular site to ensure grid reliability, and to thoroughly examine and identify alternatives.”
Friday night, TEDxRedondoBeach organized an event for curious local minds; about 80 people attended to watch a series of televised lectures about architectural ingenuity and the use of space. If conversation at that event was any indicator of the community’s priorities, the power plant remains a central issue. While the TED lectures did not apply specifically to Redondo Beach, they stimulated ample discussion of using the Harbor Dr. space functionally, and of redeveloping power plants in a world becoming more aware of its environmental impact.
AES is proposing to replace its existing Harbor Dr. power plant with a new, 496-megawatt model, shrinking the facility from 50 acres to 13. The proposed project would use dry cooling to reduce water use and comply with a newly phased-in State Water Resources Control Board policy, which bans the use of ocean water for power plant cooling.
Should the CEC approve AES’ application, demolition and construction will take place between January 2016 and December 2020. The estimated capital cost for the project would be $500 million.
Members of the public can attend Tuesday’s site visit and informational hearing, but to reserve a spot for the site visit should call (916) 654-4489, (800) 822-6228, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Those unable to attend the hearing can participate by telephone and/or computer at this site: http://docketpublic.energy.ca.gov/PublicDocuments/12-AFC-03/TN200423_20130909T130204_Notice_of_Site_Visit__Informational_Hearing.pdf.
More information on the Redondo Beach Energy Project can be found at: http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/redondo_beach/.