Calpine to Take Uneconomic CCGT Plant Offline in Calif. 

Calpine Corp. will idle a 578-MW natural gas–fired combined cycle (CCGT) power plant in northern California for likely the remainder of the year.

The Houston-headquartered company told POWER on January 15 that it will put the 2001-built Sutter Energy Center in Yuba City in “cold layup.” That means that while will the plant will not generate electricity, it will preserve operational status, have some employees there full time (though not a full staff), and restart as soon as market conditions dictate, spokesman Brett Kerr said.

The company opted to take the plant offline for a combination of reasons that have driven up the company’s energy-to-market costs. One is that the plant’s unique location forces Calpine to pay “steep transmission fees,” Kerr said.

The plant is interconnected to the transmission system operated by the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), a balancing area authority, but it operates in the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO’s) markets with a pseudo-tie arrangement.

In 2013 Calpine proposed a new 230-kV underground generation tie-in that could change the project’s point of interconnection from the grid operated by the WAPA to the grid managed by CAISO to gain broader access to power markets located throughout California. But in 2014, it withdrew that proposal filed with the California Energy Commission.

However, for the past few years, few entities have come forward to purchase power that Sutter can supply to the grid. 

Calpine noted that when the facility entered commercial operation in 2001, it was the first new power plant to come online in a decade in California. It played an integral role during the state’s 2001 energy crisis.

In November 2011, the company sought permission from CAISO to retire the plant in 2012. The ISO rejected the request, citing an analysis that showed the plant would be needed for reliability until at least 2017. At the time, CAISO determined that it could see a potential 3,570-MW capacity shortfall in 2017.

The California Public Utilities Commission later directed the state’s three investor-owned utilities to execute resource adequacy contracts with Sutter to enable it to continue operations, but those agreements ran out at the end of 2012.

Sonal Patel and Thomas W. Overton, associate editors (@POWERmagazine)