In what has been a much longer and more drawn-out process than Entergy could have imagined when it first proposed a new gas-fired power plant in New Orleans, the company got some good news on February 21. The Utility, Cable, Telecommunications, and Technology Committee agreed—after what has turned out to be years of discussion—to send Entergy’s proposal to the full city council for consideration. The council is expected to vote on the proposal during a March 8 meeting and seems assured of passing the measure if committee members don’t change their votes.
Entergy filed its original application with the New Orleans City Council on June 20, 2016, seeking approval to build the New Orleans Power Station at its existing Michoud site in an industrial area on the eastern edge of the city. The 1960s-era Michoud Units 2 and 3 were deactivated earlier that month as an economic decision based on maintenance and operational issues. Entergy asked for the council’s blessing by January 31, 2017, but a lengthy debate over the project has kept the new gas plant in limbo.
On July 6, 2017, Entergy amended its application. In addition to renewing its request for approval of the originally proposed 226-MW combustion turbine, it also presented an alternative proposal for a 128-MW unit composed of natural gas-fired reciprocating engines instead of the larger gas turbine. During Wednesday’s committee meeting (Figure 1), the 128-MW option was pushed through by a 4–1 vote.
Entergy has been proactively promoting the new plant. The company said it has hosted and participated in more than 25 public meetings across the city. Charles Rice, president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans, released a message directed at residents in which he said, “The city of New Orleans needs and deserves clean, safe, and reliable power. You can help the city determine its own future by urging the city council to support the New Orleans Power Station.”
Although many residents followed his advice and offered their support for the project, a large number of people also turned out to argue for renewable resources instead, or for using available funds to fix poor transmission and distribution infrastructure that has caused service disruptions.
Rice said natural gas is “by far the best decision for this power station because of its reliability and lower cost for the citizens of New Orleans.” Nonetheless, he said Entergy is also taking significant steps to add renewable resources in New Orleans. The company has committed in writing to acquire 100 MW “as soon as practical,” which is a sticking point for some who feel a more definite timeline is needed. In May 2017, Entergy selected three renewables proposals totaling approximately 45 MW, and the company said it “will continue working towards the full 100 MW.”
—Aaron Larson, executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)