Glendale’s misguided gas plan

Recently, the residents of Glendale received a happy message from Glendale Water and Power (GWP). In addition to containing an attractive holiday greeting, the message offered “Water and energy saving tips for the holidays”. There is a link to an Energy and Water Efficiency Marketplace offering online shopping for energy and water efficient products at discounted prices and information about Glendale’s Mandatory Water Conservation.

This well-produced post also includes an update on the Grayson Repowering Project. The report adheres to the cheerful theme of the holiday greeting. GWP certainly doesn’t need PR advice. However, he seems to need some advice on his “repowering plan”.

Historical context

The factory, named after Glendale’s first engineer and general manager Loren Grayson, was built from 1939 as a city-owned and operated steam power plant. Grayson is located near San Fernando Road and Flower, not far from where the Golden State Freeway meets the Ventura Freeway. It sits next to the LA River, across from the John Ferraro Sports Fields in Griffith Park. Due to its age and because it had been operating for a long time with few renovations, it was time for a makeover.

The Grayson Repowering 2017 project was a plan to replace existing natural gas combustion equipment with new gas combustion equipment with an energy capacity of 262 megawatts (MW). This plan was rejected by Glendale City Council in April 2018. Residents of Glendale, joined by environmental groups such as the Glendale Environmental Coalition and the Sierra Club, held meetings, wrote letters, demonstrated and testified at the meetings. Glendale City Council meetings. In April 2018, city council rejected the Grayson Repowering Plan.

In July 2019, city council conditionally approved an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and energy portfolio with 93 MW of gas combustion and 75 MG of battery storage at Grayson. This was to be accompanied by clean energy projects, such as demand response, energy efficiency, solar power, battery storage and transport to Glendale. The goal was to reach or approach 100% clean energy by 2030. However, by the end of 2021, it was clear that GWP had not fully explored cleaner energy alternatives. Instead, Glendale City Council will be given two choices: 93 MW from five new internal combustion engine units, or 101 MW from the refurbishment of two existing Grayson turbines. Environmental groups (the Glendale Environmental Coalition, Earth Justice and the Sierra Club) are asking that GWP not install or renovate gas combustion equipment until all possible clean energy solutions have been explored.

Natural gas

This fossil fuel gets its name from the fact that it is a mixture of naturally occurring hydrocarbons composed mainly of methane. It forms when layers of decaying plant and animal remains are exposed to intense heat and pressure beneath the Earth’s surface for millions of years. Natural gas, a non-renewable resource, has been a major source of electricity production. It burns cleaner than other hydrocarbons, such as petroleum and coal, and produces less carbon dioxide per unit of energy released.

Despite its advantages, however, it is not easy to store or transport natural gas. This is due to its low density. It tends to leak and leaks can cause explosions. In 2015, SoCal Gas employees discovered a leak and blowout at Aliso Canyon, an underground gas storage facility in the Santa Susanna Mountains. The carbon footprint of the Aliso / Porter Ranch gas leak was huge. The leak spat out 110,000 pounds of methane per hour. A given amount of methane has 84 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

“What’s unique about natural gas among fossil fuels,” writes climate science expert Michael Mann, “is that it’s not just a fossil fuel. greenhouse gas… This means that it can cause warming not only when we burn it for energy and it releases carbon dioxide, but also when the methane itself escapes into the gas. ‘atmosphere (Michael Mann, The New Climate War, 2021)

Splitting

Today almost all natural gas is fractured. “The process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is used to break up bedrock to access natural gas deposits inevitably allows some of the methane to escape directly into the atmosphere (so-called ‘fugitive methane’). “”). (Mann, Op. Cit.) Other serious environmental threats from natural gas extraction include the impact of fracking chemicals on the security of water supplies. most important resource for those of us living in the arid southwest: water or natural gas?

GWP Complaints and Rebuttals

The update on the Grayson Repowering Project tells us that it will provide “efficient and reliable power to homes and businesses in Glendale, especially during emergencies and high demand.” How reliable will this project be if the storage facility it uses is closed? There has been strong community pressure on SoCal Gas to shut down the Aliso Canyon storage facility since the 2015 eruption.

The repowering project will help GWP to “provide energy to customers when imported energy and local renewable energy sources are not sufficient”. Could improved energy conservation and efficiency, and more local renewable energy sources, such as solar panels on commercial buildings and parking lots and residential rooftops, sufficiently strengthen the “enough” component? Distributed local energy resources appear to be more reliable than a highly centralized system. The Glendale Environmental Coalition argues that GWP has neither launched a commercial solar program nor done enough to further encourage private residential solar power and storage.

GWP says natural gas will provide an “energy source that will help ‘fill the gaps’ in solar and wind resources due to their variable nature.” This remark of “variable nature” can apply even more to natural gas infrastructures.

“Reduce the high maintenance costs, additional fuel costs, and emergency power purchasing costs in the cash market that we are spending now due to frequent failures of aging, unreliable, inefficient and maintenance-requiring equipment.” high, ”observes GWP,“ affordable rates for Glendale customers ”can be maintained. But consider this: Project Grayson will cost hundreds of millions of dollars for technology that may well be obsolete or legally prohibited long before the end of the life of the new equipment. In addition, the new equipment will only be used to cover peak demand. In other words, it is a very expensive insurance policy.

The GWP mentions an improvement in air quality. This statement is valid because “the new technology will be more efficient and comply with new regulations requiring lower air emissions”. Air pollution and its threat to the well-being of living things near Grayson is a major concern as Glendale, like many communities in Los Angeles, is located in a pollution trap and is crossed by freeways that cross. The Grayson Repowering project will result in less air pollution, but the gas-fired power plant will still produce harmful emissions.

Sierra Club Policy

The official policy of the Sierra Club is that it “opposes new power generation units powered by natural gas, including peak and combined cycle units. In line with the Council’s goal of phasing out all fossil fuels from the power sector by 2030, it is critical that the United States avoid further high capital investments in new natural gas plants and related infrastructure. .

Summary

The original Grayson Repowering project was partly undone, thanks to demands from Glendale City Council. GWP has taken a step in the right direction, but further action is needed. These measures are expected to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035 or earlier. GWP has not thoroughly considered all other options, and apparently it has not issued bids for new local clean energy projects since 2018.

The report released earlier this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the Earth could face uncontrollable global warming unless drastic efforts are made to eliminate greenhouse gases . GWP’s repowering project for Grayson is a good effort, but it falls short of the drastic effort requested by the IPCC. The phrase “business as usual” comes to mind. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the IPCC report a “code red for humanity” and added that “there is no time for delays and no room for apologies “.

Last night (December 16), on TV, Gavin Schmitt, Acting Senior Climate Advisor at NASA, spoke about the collapse of the Antarctic sea ice, which will likely result in a possible two-foot rise in the level. from the sea. (How many climate refugees from Santa Monica will seek asylum in Glendale?)