Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Planners Get 500-Megawatt Rower Project

Planners Get 500-Megawatt Rower Project
By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer
Article Launched: 03/04/2008

The Planning Commission could recommend changes to city code tonight that would allow a 500-megawatt power facility to be built in Vacaville.

The changes, which would be made to the city's Land Use and Development Code, must be completed before a proposed natural gas-powered peaker plant could be built on 25 acres of the site of the Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant. In December, the City Council granted Washington, D.C.-based Competitive Power Ventures, Inc., a three-year-option to lease the acreage.

"In order to proceed with the proposed project, the proposed use must be consistent with the city's zoning for the site," city planner Fred Buderi explained in a written staff report. The existing zoning, he added, "does not list thermal power plants as either a permitted or a conditionally permitted use."

The site is zoned for community facilities, Buderi pointed out, accommodating utility buildings, hospitals, libraries and other uses that provide a community benefit. Staff is recommending that thermal power plants be added to the list.

"A power-generating facility, under the authority of state approval, would be consistent with the purpose of the (community facilities) zone, the staff report said.

If the amendment is approved, the report continued, "the type of power-generating facility allowed ... would be only those that are regulated by the state of California." The state's oversight is very rigorous, Buderi said, and "wouldn't really allow these things to pop up anywhere."

Another requirement under the amendment, according to the report, is that proposed sites must be within "a reasonable distance" from the infrastructure needed for a plant to operate. Staff has said that natural gas, water and power lines all are readily accessible at the Easterly site.

Even with the city's support, the plant has a number of hurdles to clear and has an estimated completion date of 2012. Competitive Power Ventures intends to compete for a contract with PG&E, which is expected to issue a request for proposals in the coming months.

The commission's vote serves as a recommendation to the City Council. The panel meets at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

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