California Backs 850 MW Natural Gas Plant

It’s not solar and it’s not wind, but the big new power plant approved this week by the California Energy Commission for Riverside County – the 850-megawatt (MW) Sentinel natural gas-fired plant – is billed as an important tool in making truly clean sources viable.

The commission voted unanimously to license the plant, to be built by Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) near the towns of Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs in the desert about 100 miles east of Los Angeles. The company is aiming to have the plant in operation by summer 2013.

CPV, Sentinel natural-gas power plant

image via CPV

“Natural gas-fired power plants facilitate the expansion of renewable energy power plants such as wind and solar because of their consistent and reliable power,” the commission said in its press release.

CPV is calling this a “standby” plant, and says on its website that Sentinel “will operate only during periods of peak demand for electricity – 15 percent to 30 percent of the year – to protect against blackouts and stabilize the overall power grid system.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.