It's really a dynamic solution."
Paul Fenn, the brain behind the city's CCA plan, points out that if CAL-ISO still insists the peakers are needed now but not in the future, a power barge is the kind of flexible solution that could pay off in the long run. "It's making a temporary measure for an urgent situation," he said, adding that such a temporary solution should reflect the city's long-term goals. "If the city is planning to replace them with renewables, it's important to get the city to make that commitment. This is one of those strategic decisions that's going to impact the future."
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission generally opposes building anything in the bay if it can be built on land first. "The proponents would have to do an analysis and convince our commission that this is really a good idea for the region," said Will Travis, a BCDC spokesperson.
But Dave Nickerson, owner of Houston-based Power Barge Corporation, said he's looked at the city's peaker plans and thinks it would cost about $100 million to build a three-CT barge. "We would probably build the plant here and ship it up," he said, pointing out that the city's turbines are already in storage down in Texas and it's cheaper to build it in a shipyard. To claims of environmental degradation, he says, "It would have the environmental footprint of a state of the art land-based plant."
He also pointed out that there's a scarcity of these particular turbines now, which are worth about $1 million more every year. This year it's around $16.5 million apiece, with $18 million as the projected 2008 price.
Emma Lierley contributed to this story.