Why is the Potrero Power Plant still going strong?

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it just keeps going and going and going...
SFBG

The Potrero Power Plant, a longtime source of pollution and health concerns for residents of San Francisco’s southeastern neighborhoods, is slated for partial closure once the Trans Bay Cable begins transmitting electricity into the city.

The Trans Bay Cable is an undersea cord that will transmit 400 megawatts of power underneath the San Francisco Bay from power plants in the Pittsburg / Antioch area. Last we heard, from a January article in the San Francisco Examiner, the project was running a full month ahead of schedule.

From the Examiner update:

“The cable was scheduled to become operational in March. However, the $505 million project is moving ahead of schedule, according to PJ Johnston, a spokesman for the joint venture that’s financing and installing the cable. The planned date to switch on the cable is now Feb. 1, according to Johnston.”

Well, Feb. 1 came and went. March came and went. Now, it’s April – and the Potrero Power Plant is still going strong, its telltale plume issuing from the tall brick smokestack.

We called PJ Johnston, the spokesperson, for another update. “We’re still testing,” he explained. “We’re going to be testing at least into the next month or longer. We’re working with the [California Independent System Operator] to determine a commercial operation date.”

The construction of the Trans Bay Cable and the converter stations were completed last year; and the system was energized in December; Johnston noted.

"We won’t speculate on a latest start date," he responded after being asked when, at the very latest, it would go into service.

That elusive date is key, because that’s when the city can kiss the primary unit of its only remaining power plant goodbye. Unit 3, which accounts for the lion’s share of harmful emissions, will no longer be required to operate by the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO) once the alternative source is in place, clearing a major obstacle that stood in the way of the plant’s closure for years. Three smaller diesel-fired units at the plant will remain in service until a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. cabling project is finished later this year, but they’ll run far less frequently than the workhorse Unit 3, according to Cal-ISO spokesperson Gregg Fishman.

“We had heard March too,” Fishman commented. He confirmed that “the large unit at Potrero will no longer be needed,” once the cable comes online, and referred us to Johnston for more information. In an accord reached with City Attorney Dennis Herrera last year, Mirant -- the company that owns the Potrero plant -- agreed that it would shutter the plant once the Cal-ISO gives the nod.

When the cable comes online and Unit 3 finally does become history, the air quality in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunter’s Point neighborhood is sure to improve. Yet as the Guardian has noted in the past, there are environmental justice questions surrounding a project that essentially shifts the pollution impact of the city’s energy needs from one low-income community to a similar neighborhood, farther away. 

Comments

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Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2010 @ 12:37 pm

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Posted by marke b on Apr. 02, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

The plant is badly misnamed, (It's a long way from Potrero Hill) ideally located for local power generation, ( sited on the bay shore where necessary cooling water is available, well away from residential areas and on the East edge of the city where prevailing winds carry virtually all exhaust away from the city). Face the fact that the Bay Guardian promotes high density living and wants some other area to breathe any pollutants. If I'd once read a report that showed a direct relationship between health outcomes and the power plant I'd have some sympathy for your obsession with shutting the plant. As it stands the Guardian seems to be an advocate for all things publicly managed a proposition my trip to the DMV yesterday suggests isn't necessarily an improvement.

Posted by Guest Gravity Well on Apr. 02, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

The plant is badly misnamed, (It's a long way from Potrero Hill) ideally located for local power generation, ( sited on the bay shore where necessary cooling water is available, well away from residential areas and on the East edge of the city where prevailing winds carry virtually all exhaust away from the city). Face the fact that the Bay Guardian promotes high density living and wants some other area to breathe any pollutants. If I'd once read a report that showed a direct relationship between health outcomes and the power plant I'd have some sympathy for your obsession with shutting the plant. As it stands the Guardian seems to be an advocate for all things publicly managed a proposition my trip to the DMV yesterday suggests isn't necessarily an improvement.

Posted by Guest Gravity Well on Apr. 02, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

For God's learn the difference between smoke and steam. It is a fossil fuel plant that emits a steam plume from it's stack. It's like a giant tea kettle that has it's steam harnessed to spin the Turbine is Steam Driven.

Why is it that a car that burn natural gas is a clean vehicle?
Now why is it that a plant that burn natural gas is a gross polluter?
The answer has nothing to do with truth or justice as proclaimed by Newsome and others.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

One could argue the faxs of closing said power facility and the environmental impact of the HVDC project. To build such a conclution the author would have to take into consideration numerous variables such as the type of generation at the two location, the environment air permits held by the two locations, as well as the line loss differences.
From what i have read the HVDC project has only 18Mw line losses while traveling 53 miles.
I am not sure what the distance is for it to go up the pennisula but assum it to be more than 100.
We know that the two grids are connected so if there is power transfer from
Pittsburg to Potrero previously and it being an alternating current, which has more line losses per distance than dirrect current, it would be a very large amount.
If the generation is shifted from one place to another there is less generation that is needed due to the loss recovery.
A power generator has to apply for air credits and since this is an old permit one can assume that they have been grandfathered in a less stringent one. The EPA is always trying to improve the air quality and is issuing these permits with more stringencies. So if the generation in the Pittsburg location is newer and is of a more efficiant type than the rate of emission is lower.

If we conbine the lower emission rate with the lower required generation we can assume that the HVDC project shall have a possitive impact environmentaly.

We can also assume that the San francisco electric grid is going to be more reliable as well with an additional route for power to flow into the city.

Lastly reading the type of technology and the manufacturer, this is a new type of conversion. we could also use the word prototype. with anything new it takes time to finalize and could be a million things that would hang it up. with out knowing all of the facts then we are all just speculating.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 05, 2010 @ 10:30 am

Does anyone know if the shuttering of the Mirant Plant is part of the greater scope of the eastern neighborhooods plan (draft EIR) and/or part of the SF Port shopping the seawall lot for development by a developer?

Shuttering the plant will open up a large plot of land, including land that is already abandoned with emptied factories or plots of land being used for tow company storage. As mission bay development continues to move up into dogpatch there is clearly a lack of parking for the area businesses but I just wondered if this shutdown was going to pave the way for massive development in the area especially as some long stalled projects are finally getting green-lighted.

Posted by Guest Rob on Apr. 06, 2010 @ 9:06 am