SANTA ANA (CNS) - Two power plants in Orange County and one in Los Angeles County will have longer to comply with a policy intended to protect marine life but has resulted in reduced availability of electricity.
The vote Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board to approve an amendment to its Once-Through Cooling Policy is a response to a request by the state's energy, utility, and grid operators and regulators to maintain, for a definitive period, four once-through cooling plants as power choices, according to board chair E. Joaquin Esquivel.
The plants are needed to provide more energy grid stability and reliability, as additional energy and storage resources are built over the next three years, Esquivel said.
“Once-through cooling power plant operations impose heavy environmental impacts on our oceans and communities, and an extension of these compliance dates aren't without significant consideration,'' Esquivel said.
“The board is called to balance the complex and overarching needs of the state and here appropriately weigh energy reliability considerations even in the pursuit of these important policies.''
The vote extends the compliance date for the Alamitos and Huntington Beach generating stations three years to Dec. 31, 2023. The Redondo Beach Generating Station received a one-year extension to Dec. 31, 2021.
The Ormond Beach Generating Station in Oxnard also received a three-year compliance extension to Dec. 31, 2023.
The amendment also revises compliance dates at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County to conform to the Once-Through Cooling Policy expiration dates for each unit to those in the corresponding nuclear operating license.
California's Once-Through Cooling policy, which became effective Oct. 1, 2010, seeks to protect marine life when water from the ocean or estuaries is used for cooling at power plants.
Using ocean water for once-through cooling kills millions of fish, larvae, eggs, seals, sea lions, turtles, and other creatures each year when they are either trapped against screens or drawn into the cooling system and exposed to pressure and high heat.
Power plants are required to either reduce the velocity of ocean water intake flows or reduce impacts by other comparable means. Many power plants have chosen to comply by stopping use of once-through cooling operations.
The policy acknowledges that compliance date changes may be necessary to support grid reliability. The board created the multi-agency Statewide Advisory Committee on Cooling Water Intake Structures to regularly monitor grid reliability and provide recommendations to the board if extensions are necessary.
The committee identified possible grid reliability issues in March 2019, and recommended in January the board consider extending the compliance dates of the four fossil-fuels power plants. The amendment is based on the committee's recommendation.
The amendment was prompted by changes in California's energy demands since 2019 which include a shift in peak energy demand to later in the day and later in the year, when solar and wind resources are not as reliably available to meet demand.
The amendment also addresses other energy-related factors, including a lower qualifying capacity for wind and solar power than previously determined, a significant increase in projected reliance on imported electricity over historical levels, and earlier-than-expected closures of some inland power plants.
As the recent extreme heat events in California has shown, more power is needed for peak usage on hot days until 2023, when renewable energy sources are scheduled to be online to cover anticipated demand.
The State Water Resources Control Board is charged with implementing a provision of the federal Clean Water Act, which requires the location, design, construction and capacity of cooling water intake structures to reflect the best technology available to protect aquatic life.
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