CA Power Plant Suit Settled

Tuesday, August 18, 2015 @ 12:08 PM gHale

Pasadena will pay $550,000 to settle an environmental lawsuit that nearly delayed the completion of a power plant upgrade expected to give the city a more reliable and local power source.

The California Clean Energy Committee (CCEC) intends to use the settlement to fund a study on how Pasadena could re-use excess heat from a natural gas turbine instead of releasing it into the air, said Eugene Wilson, attorney for CCEC. By using the heat, the city would not contribute to rising temperatures, he said.

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“We’re not living in a world where we can afford to ignore cost-effective energy conservation measures,” Wilson said.

He said the city refused to consider the study, which he estimated would cost about $100,000.

“The city could not tell you today how much of the energy goes to waste heat and how much of it goes to electricity — that’s the most fundamental number to consider,” he said.

The Glenarm Repowering Project replaces a 50-year-old steam generating unit with a more efficient, 71-megawatt natural gas fueled turbine that should reduce greenhouse emissions by 20 percent. The project does re-utilize some heat through a secondary steam unit, but Wilson said the new turbine could waste as much as 50 percent of its energy by not utilizing the heat elsewhere.

Caltech, for example, uses heat from its natural gas turbine to warm its buildings, drinking water and pools, according to the institution.

Though CCEC won the money to fund the study, the city does not have to follow any of that study’s recommendations, said City Attorney Michele Bagneris.

“I’m not saying the city will or won’t, but we’re not obligated to do anything further in that regard,” she said.

In exchange for Pasadena’s concession, the litigation won’t further delay the $132 million project, which already experienced setbacks after the oversized turbine required a larger building than originally planned. It should be ready to go by next summer.

The new turbine lessens Pasadena’s reliance on outside agencies for power and provides more certainty in the availability of electricity, according to officials.

CCEC sued the city in 2013, claiming plans to add a natural gas turbine to the Glenarm Power Plant did not follow environmental laws. The city lost the case in the appellate court in June, when a panel of judges determined the city did not properly study the impact the project might have on the water supply. However, the decision to reverse Pasadena’s environmental impact report became moot when CCEC settled, Bagneris said.