If you drive down PCH in Huntington Beach you will pass the only power plant in Orange County. Located at Newland and PCH, across the street from the beach.
The natural gas plant is owned by AES a leading global power company with 132 plants in 32 countries with $17 billion in revenue. It is currently listed at #150 on the Fortune 500 (pdf).
In California, it operates 2 other natural gas plants in Los Alamitos and Redondo Beach. As well as 5 wind stations. Although, the largest section of its portfolio are coal powered plants located elsewhere in the USA.
The plant in Huntington Beach was purchased from Southern California Edison in 1998 and has been in operation since 1958. It uses conventional GM steam turbines among others.
In 2001, the company petitioned to upgrade and then turn on gas burners 3 and 4 (additional source), which would bring the capacity up to 904 MW. They were successful and, in 2002, the city valued the plant at $325 million.
We do seem to be pretty lucky since I can find no reports of explosions, leaks, waste dumps, or the like. Even the fuel, natural gas, is by far the cleanes and abundant in this country:
“The combustion of natural gas emits almost 30 percent less carbon dioxide than oil, and just under 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal.”
As for cooling, the location of the plant offers it easy access to ocean water. Which has gotten it into trouble after a 2007 ruling requires power plants to reduce by 95% any marine life damage they cause. Their best option would be to operate a closed-loop system where water is reused, more energy is created, and only 5% is lost during operations. This system is obviously the best but also the most expensive.
AES has until 2020 to make these changes and looks to be doing so. In a first step they sold two of the four turbines to Edison Mission so they can build a plant in the City of Industry. After those turbines are gone AES plans to modernize the plant and possibly even remove the smokestacks.
Imagine the power plant of the future being a nondescript office building…
Photo at top by Bill Graf
Photo at bottom by Tony Sanchez