Glendale may rebuild its Grayson Power Station by installing gas turbines that will produce 140,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, add tons of ozone and particulate pollution to our local air, and generate 250 MW of electricity. All for an estimated price of $500 million.
The upcoming California Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) 2030 deadline mandates that all publicly owned utilities including GWP procure 50 percent of their electricity from eligible renewable energy resources. The Grayson repowering project does nothing towards that goal. The power generated by the proposed Grayson plant would be 100% non-renewable. The utility is expecting to meet the RPS requirements by purchasing renewable power from the grid rather than developing it’s own renewable power. The plan is scoped to generate and sell a significant amount of energy into the grid thereby increasing the amount of greenhouse gas produced for power at a time when we urgently need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses produced.
The Grayson Repowering Project is not Financially Sound
Glendale is planning on issuing 500 million in bonds to pay for the Grayson plant rebuild. The economics of this project is based upon some unsound logic and we ratepayers will be on the hook if anything goes wrong.
The plan expects to sell an enormous amount of power to other utilities around California and is using estimated sales price that are current today and yet we are expecting a glut of power production in California which will lower the resale value of Grayson’s power.
Additionally, the finance plan uses today’s values for the cost of carbon credits which will be required to be purchased to offset the pollution of the Grayson plant. The prices of these carbon credits are expected to increase substantially especially as the planned carbon credit price increases are implemented.
Senate Bill 100 which is working it’s way through the legislature would require all California utilities to be 100% renewable by 2050 thereby reducing the planned usage of this plant from 50 years to 25-30 years. This makes the plant extremely expensive for Glendale ratepayers.
The plant is located very near the Verdugo fault line and sits on a liquefaction zone which means that the ground under it will liquefy during an earthquake. This will cause the plant to sink into the ground and will certainly break it’s gas and water lines. This could cause an explosion and certainly means expensive and lengthy repairs. Distributed solar on people’s homes will not leave those buildings without power after an earthquake.
The plant is located next to the Los Angeles River and where the Verdugo wash meets the L.A. River. A recently updated hydrology report on the LA River shows massive flooding in the areas around the plant in a 100 year storm event but it does not analyse the Verdugo wash which would dump right into the plant if the water backs up from a flooded LA River. Houston just experienced a 500 year storm event and as weather events become more extreme we are likely to see similar flooding within a few years.
Choosing Solar is Doable Today
Choosing to build renewable energy gives us the opportunity to make Glendale a model city for solar power. Instead of locking in our carbon dioxide pollution for the next 30 years, we can put solar panels on every home and business in Glendale. This will lower everyone’s utility bills, provide lots of local jobs, and put Glendale on the map as the first 100% renewable powered city in the country.
Google’s Project Sunroof calculates that Glendale has the roof capacity to generate 456 MW with solar power on existing roofs! An average size single family home can hold 10kW worth of panels so we would need to put panels on 25,000 homes to generate the 250 MW that is proposed by Grayson Repowering. That doesn’t include the panels that could go on the large commercial, residential, and industrial buildings in town or as stand alone shade structures over parking lots. Needless to say, we have way more than enough space in Glendale to generate this much power.
In addition to rooftop solar, Glendale could close the Scholl Canyon landfill and turn the available 300 acres into a utility scale solar plant which could generate 70 to 100MW.
How Much Would it Cost?
The average cost for home solar is around $2,500/kW or $2,500,000/MW. Here are some options on how installing all those panels could be accomplished:
- Glendale directly pays local solar installers for solar on 25,000 homes. The cost for 250 MW of solar would be $625 million. This would be the most expensive way.
- Glendale offers to pay home and business owners 50% of the cost of installation. This lowers Glendale’s cost of installing a 250 MW solar power plant down to $312.5 million. The home or business owner would receive a 25% federal tax credit on the installation which would mean $78M in Federal tax rebates into the Glendale economy. The home and business owners can use the power from the panels for free but would either have net metering or would pay for power drawn from the grid. Owners selling their buildings within 5 years would have to pay some of the 50% back to Glendale since the panels will increase their property values.
- Glendale offers to pay home and business owners 30% of the cost of installation. In this case the cost is $195 million with $113 million in Federal tax credits coming back to the Glendale area. At this level of co-funding, Glendale could spend the proposed $500 million and put solar on almost every single residential unit in the city.
- Glendale Water & Power can install solar power on 25,000 homes at zero home owner cost and retain ownership of the equipment, selling the generated electricity to the building owner at a reduced rate. Glendale Water & Power can sell the federal tax credits and sell the green power credits for the power generated to recoup some of the costs. GWP also resells the generated electricity. The equipment would become the building owner’s property after 10 to 15 years. This is similar to the structure of many solar lease projects out there today.
- In any of these cases, GWP could purchase all the panels and equipment in bulk to save significantly on the installation costs.
- In the cases where the building owner is contributing to the cost of install, some thought should go into encouraging participation by low income home owners who could benefit from the reduced electric bills but who are unable to come up with upfront money. They could pay the installation costs back over time via the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program or the city could finance the purchases subject to liens on the property. See the Low Income Barriers Study for more ideas.
- Change current building standards to require solar power and higher efficiency on all new buildings and ground-up remodels in order to reduce future demand. Demand reduction through efficiency is already required by state law.
What About Nights and Cloudy Days?
Under the current proposal Grayson would retain the 2003 natural gas generator unit (Unit No 9) which generates 49 MW. This could be used for nighttime and cloudy day power. Additionally, Glendale Power & Water has power purchase agreements with clean and dirty power generators that we currently use for almost all of our energy needs. On hot but cloudy days Glendale’s power use might exceed it’s solar generation capacity and would require power from the grid but these purchases would be offset by selling back into the grid our over capacity generation on sunny days. Alternatively, energy storage can be installed for $250/kwh for installations larger than 100 MWh.
Additionally, there are plans to install generators producing 12 MW at the Scholl Canyon Landfill for a cost of $20 million to generate electricity from the methane emitted by the landfill. This work is out of scope of the Grayson repowering project. This would be renewable electricity that could be used to generate power outside of the peak production periods of the solar project.
To make up any other capacity problems, Glendale Water and Power could look into additional power purchase agreements with industrial scale renewable energy projects. For example, Glendale currently has 92 MW in renewable power purchase agreements as follows: Skylar Renewable Solar 2014 for 25 years at 50 MW/year, Pebble Springs Wind 2007 for 18 years at 20 MW/year, South West Wyoming Wind 2006 for 16 years at 10 MW/year, Ormat Geothermal 2005 for 25 years at 3 MW, and High Winds Energy Project 2003 for 25 years at 9 MW/year. Most of these contracts are in the $40 to $50/MWh range. Note that the retail price to Glendale customers for electricity is around $140 to $180/MWh.
The utility argues that a main reason for producing it’s own natural gas based power locally rather than purchasing renewable power from the grid is so that there is a local supply in the event that Glendale is cut off from the grid. This doesn’t account for the fact that our peak usage is around 335 MW on the hottest of hot days and Grayson will only cover 250 MW. So, if we were cut off from the grid we would not have sufficient power to meet peak demand even under the polluting natural gas scenario.
What About that Dirty Energy?
The Grayson Repowering project puts 250 MW worth of nonrenewable power generation into central Glendale which will generate hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year. You might think that if we don’t use the power then the plant won’t generate the pollution but one of the factors in financing the construction is their expectation to sell the power generated by the extra capacity in the plant. So even if we turn off our lights and turn off the air conditioners, the plant will still be generating extra power and extra pollution to sell power back to the grid. Sure, this sold power might offset power produced by a coal plant somewhere but why not sell clean solar power produced by excess capacity built into a solar powered Glendale?
From a recent report on Glendale’s Electric Revenue Bonds (see chart above) it is clear that Glendale has mainly run on external electricity with relatively little energy being produced locally. A majority of our electricity has been purchased and then resold to Glendale citizens (retail sales) and resold to other utilities (wholesale sales). The Grayson Repowering is an attempt to reduce purchasing electricity from the grid and to start generating a huge amount of electricity locally – not for Glendale’s use but for reselling into the grid. Glendale Water & Power wants to become a net producer of dirty electricity to sell to other utilities at the cost of Glendale’s air quality and the future of the planet.
There is no doubt that natural gas is cleaner burning than coal but it still produces a significant amount of pollution that will be released directly into the air that we breathe. We expect clean air in Glendale and the Grayson Repowering project will make our air quality worse. From a website by renown climate scientist David Suzuki, natural gas generator pollution includes ground-level ozone (commonly called smog) “which has been linked to a range of respiratory illnesses. More recently, ground-level ozone has been linked to the development of childhood asthma, the “most common chronic disease” among children”. “More troubling are the emissions of fine particulates from gas-fired power plants. Though particulate emissions are about ten per cent of those produced by coal power, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 77 per cent of particulates from natural gas plants are dangerously small. These fine particulates have the greatest impact on human health because they by-pass our bodies’ natural respiratory filters and end up deep in the lungs. In fact, many studies have found no safe limit for exposure to these substances.”
The plant is within a mile of several schools and the Pelanconi, Riverside Rancho, Fremont Park, Vineyard, and North Glendale Neighborhoods. It’s also within a mile of the Los Angeles Zoo.
Let’s Make the Leap!
This is an opportunity for Glendale to not just replace an old natural gas power plant with a new natural gas power plant. This is an opportunity to make a leap to the next generation of power. This is an opportunity to become a model for a clean powered city. This is an opportunity to prepare our community and children to deal with with the future of clean power. This is an opportunity to be a positive example for our children and there children and help to preserve this wonderful land that we call home.
Some Details About MW vs MWhs
Here’s a brief explanation of Megawatt (MW), Kilowatt (kW), Megawatt hours (MWh), and Kilowatt hours (kWh) two terms that may seem to be used interchangeably but are quite different and have an important impact on the discussion of solar power. A Megawatt is just 1000 kilowatts so everything said about MW is true for kW. A Megawatt is a measurement of power and MWh a megawatt-hour is a measurement of usage. If you had a big machine that used 1 MW and you let it run for 30 minutes then it would use .5 MWh of electricity. Likewise, if you had a generator that produces 1 MW and you let it generate for 30 minutes then it would generate .5 MWh of electricity.
So, while Glendale’s record peak demand is 337 MW, it doesn’t need that much power all the time. Glendale’s average load is 123 MW. Glendale currently uses around 1,080,000 MWh annually.
Power plants that run 24/7 like geothermal, natural gas, or nuclear can produce the same amount of power all day long everyday (with downtime for repairs). Solar or wind power plants can only produce when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. This means that the potential power output for these types of power plants are quite different. Running as much as possible, a 250 MW geothermal plant would produce 2,190,000 MWh of electricity. Taking into account the amount of sun available, a 250 MW solar plant in California will produce 400,000 MWh.
What About the Grayson Land?
The site is located at the corner of Flower and San Fernando and is right next to the Los Angeles River. We should let the current power generators at Grayson continue to operate until they become too expensive to run. One of the generators (#9) was built in 2002 and has many years left on it. As the older generators wear out we could replace them with a geothermal plant, battery storage to save our daytime solar overproduction, industrial solar, or a Solar Glendale vistors’ center. Alternatively, we could turn it into a park, build low income housing, or allow DreamWorks or Disney to expand their nearby operations into that space. Also, after the recent flooding in Houston they should consider the risk of building a new power plant next to the LA River when we are entering uncharted weather territory.
What Should Glendale Do?
At the very least, Glendale should authorize a review of the 2015 power plant proposal by an independent party that includes options for significant renewable power generation.
What Can I Do?
Join 350.org and join their Grayson Repowering group
Join the Glendale Environmental Coalition who is organizing local efforts against the Grayson Pollution Plant
Join Go Fossil Free to speed the divestment from fossil fuels
Call or email members of the Glendale City Council and ask to stop the CEQA process and commission zero carbon alternatives
Email the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
Email or call your state representatives
Go to city council meetings and express your concern
Glendale City Council:
- Councilmember Paula Devine
- (818) 548-4844 (Council Switchboard)
- Has voted in favor of Grayson project in the past
- Has excluded herself from some votes on Grayson due to a conflict of interest. Mrs. Devine owns shares in one of the companies that is involved in the bidding process.
- Councilmember Ara Najarian
- (818) 548-4844 (Council Switchboard)
- (818) 549-0808 (Campaign Office/His Law Office)
- Has voted in favor of Grayson project in the past
- Has excluded himself from some votes on Grayson due to a conflict of interest. Mr Najarian owns shares in one of the companies that is involved in the bidding process.