Thursday, November 13, 2008

Energy plan generates possibility

Energy plan generates possibility
By Melissa Murphy/
Article Launched: 11/13/2008

At a time when many communities are struggling to survive the slumping economy, Vacaville is pinning at least some of its hopes to a new energy producing center proposed for land next to the city's wastewater plant.

Competitive Power Ventures of Maryland is looking to build a more than half a billion dollar station that generates electricity through a combined cycle process using about half of the recycled water from the city's wastewater plant.

"With the economy the way it is, it's hard to have projects down the pipeline," said City Manager David Van Kirk. "We're very fortunate to have this project come to Vacaville."

The city and the county will see about $6 million annually in revenue from the new energy plant, according to Andy Welch, project manager with Competitive Power Ventures.

In a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce Council of Major Employers Wednesday, Welch explained that the natural gas powered, Combined-Cycle Process produces electricity by changing the energy in its fuel into electrical energy.

The process is highly efficient, according to Welch, and produces enough power for 600,000 average California homes.

Keeping in mind conserving natural resources, the location of the plant will be on 25 acres at the junction of Lewis and Fry roads. Its proximity to the city's Easterly Wastewater Treatment Facility, will allow the station to use gray water from the treatment plant, and it will be able to tie into existing Pacific Gas and Electric lines near Meridian Road.

Construction of the CPV Vaca Station will create approximately 670 jobs for about two and a half years. Once the project is in operation, there will be 25 to 30 jobs.

Welch anticipates the project will be completed in 2013.

Until then, the company has to go through an application process, which will take at least two years before approval by the California Energy Commission.

"It's a pretty big deal," Van Kirk said. "This isn't an easy project. In the end it will help in keeping our costs down at our wastewater facility."

Welch also said that taking time to talk with residents is part of an ongoing effort to answer any questions they might have. A concern of noise has been expressed, but Welch said not to worry. In terms of noise levels in decibels, the new station would be only slightly noisier than the current levels on the site. In fact, the new station is significantly quieter than a hair dryer, according to Welch.

"We're very confident that we have a clean project," he said. "It's highly efficient and very flexible."

In terms of funding, CPV will wait until at least 2010 in hopes that the market will pick up by then, Welch said. He added that he believes PG&E will be interested in buying the energy produced at the plant.