Heat wave leaves questions over Redondo power station
by Garth Meyer
As the heat wave lifted from Redondo Beach in recent days, questions remained about the city’s waterfront power plant, which is still active for situations like this.
The AES generator contributed to the state grid during the surge in demand, although it was limited due to mechanical problems.
The heat wave came just after factory owner Leo Pustilnikov filed a preliminary proposal to develop the 54-acre site once it is decommissioned.
If and when it does. The date is currently set for December 2023, although doubts have grown over whether it will be held.
California’s Independent System Operator (ISO), which manages the state’s power grid, placed an order two weeks ago: Every available generator in California had to be up and running by September 5, due record temperatures and record electricity demand.
This meant that the Redondo Beach AES was called at full capacity.
“As an older generator, the Redondo Beach units are not used as often as newer, more efficient generators, but they are an essential resource to help meet power demand during downtimes. heat waves like we just experienced,” said Anne F. Gonzalez, senior public information officer for ISO California. “The Redondo Beach units are also essential in the event of unexpected transmission system failures due to fires or other (unplanned) events.”
The seawater-cooled AES plant operates 60 to 90 days a year at limited capacity. During the heat wave, it reached 80% capacity, Pustilnikov said, with a partial shutdown of one of the individual plants inside the Redondo complex caused by a pump problem and a leaking tube. of boiler.
“It’s almost never 100%,” Pustilnikov said last week. “Even in the last few days they didn’t need it at full capacity.”
But if the plant hadn’t had mechanical problems, would it have been 100%?
“Yeah, probably,” he said.
Although the plant remains operational, it is not in its optimal state.
“All of these power plants are maintained for the short term,” Pustilnikov said. “You repair as little as possible. No need to replace (an engine) when the factory may not run in 24 or 25.”
AES Redondo is one of four coastal factories that were due to close in 2020, but were first extended for one year and then for two more. Each serves as a backup to help the state avoid power outages, when there may not be enough renewable (stored) energy available to run air conditioners.
“California energy agencies agreed to retire these units in Redondo, some of which are nearly 70 years old, in 2010,” Mayor Bill Brand said, referring to the first 10-year end point. “Nobody wants the power cut even for a short time, but hopefully they won’t be extended past their new retirement deadline at the end of 2023.”
AES Redondo was one of the few fossil-fuel plants in California to partially shut down or produce only limited power for days during the heat wave.
Meanwhile, the state is moving toward its 2045 mandate to get all of its electricity from renewable or non-carbon sources. In addition, the overall demand for this energy is expected to increase due to the increase in the number of household appliances and electric cars, as estimated by the California Energy Commission.
So, will the Redondo plant soon be decommissioned?
The best plans
In August, Pustilnikov submitted plans to build thousands of housing units on the 54-acre AES site, an office complex, hotel, grocery store and more.
The proposal, met with skepticism or condemnation by the Redondo Beach City Council, may not happen for legal reasons, zoning reasons, public opinion reasons or business reasons.
Pustilnikov is paid $28 million a year by the state to keep the plant operational when needed.
Mayor Brand and many townspeople have said – through votes – that they want the plant to become a park.
“If I’m not entitled to it, if I don’t have approved (development) plans, I don’t decommission anything,” Pustilnikov said.
The state should first take the decision to dismantle the plant.
“He’s going to stay there,” Pustilnikov said. “We will have a power plant off. It will remain a horror. It will remain there vacant. What is the alternative? I better keep it as it is. The city is doing it to itself, without even realizing it. They’re going to build a park on my property? Am I going to build a park on your house? There is no voice of reason in the city.
All four coastal plants could be renewed again due to legislation signed in June by Governor Newsom that makes it easier for the state to purchase power from diesel generators and gas-fired plants like AES.
(The bill also gives the state more leverage to approve wind and solar farms over objections from local governments).
Additionally, a 2020 executive order from Newsom states that by 2035, all new cars sold in California must be capable of charging with electricity or running on hydrogen.
AES Redondo produces this electricity.
So with statewide demand expected to increase and the city of Redondo Beach seemingly against Pustilnikov’s development proposals, is he better off as a businessman if things stay as they are? they are ?
“Time will tell,” he said. Emergency room