Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vacaville's Power Play

Vacaville's Power Play
Plant Could Be A Good Fit

Vacaville may have a chance to contribute to the nation's switch to cleaner energy and make a little money in the process. It's an idea worth exploring.

Tonight, the City Council will be asked to take the first steps toward a deal that could lead to a 500-megawatt, natural-gas fueled power plant being built on 25 acres of city-owned property next to the Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant in Elmira.

Council support for the project tonight is no guarantee that the plant ever will be built. It's a bit like anteing up for a very long poker game.

Tonight's ante includes modifying the zoning rules to allow for such a plant and entering into a year-long agreement to negotiate with the company that wants to lease the land and build the plant.

The agreement and zoning change would give Competitive Power Ventures of Washington, D.C., the ability to seek a long-term power contract with Pacific Gas & Electric. If it acquires a contract, the company could then ask permission from the California Energy Commission to build the plant.

The location seems ideal. The site has access to a natural gas supply, as well as high-powered transmission lines to carry away the electricity produced. And treated water from Easterly could be used to cool the generators.

Between rent on the leased land, the sale of treated water and the property taxes generated, a power plant could bring as much as $2.5 million a year to the city.

As envisioned, the plant would augment electrical supplies during peak usage hours, and it would do so in a much cleaner way than coal-powered plants. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Compared to the average air emissions from coal-fired generation, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and 1 percent as much sulfur oxides."

Still, even natural gas-powered plants have emissions. Eventually the proposal would have to undergo an environmental review, at which time the pros of allowing it to operate would be weighed against the effect on the neighbors in Elmira.

That's not a small drawback. Elmira residents already put up with the negative effects of the wastewater treatment plant, such as odors. Their concerns must be addressed and alleviated before any power plant is built.

But Vacaville should play that hand when it's dealt. Tonight, it's enough for the City Council to agree to take a seat at the table.

Solano's Got It!

Solano's Got It!
The Best That Northern California Has To Offer.

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