GE Gas Turbines Installed to Support California Power Supply

Four General Electric (GE) gas turbines have been deployed in California as part of the follow-up to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s emergency order to safeguard the state’s power grid. GE recently announced two of the company’s 30-MW TM2500 aeroderivative turbines have been installed at the Roseville Energy Park in Roseville, with another two installed adjacent to Calpine’s existing Sutter Energy Center in Yuba City.

The TM2500 units, which are essentially grounded jet engines that have been reconfigured to run on natural gas and generate electricity, are designed to start and ramp up within minutes to supplement renewable power generation and provide more reliability and resiliency to the state’s electricity supply, which has been challenged in recent years due to numerous wildfires, extreme heat, and drought.

Licenses for the units were issued in August, and GE said the turbines were ordered, delivered, installed, and commissioned in only 42 days by GE, Kiewit Power Constructors Co., and California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR), which manages the state’s water supply. The DWR has anticipated a power supply shortage as hydropower resources have been reduced, and the reliability of the commercial and residential water supply in the state could be impacted by power outages.

Emissions Regulations

California has stringent emissions regulations, which has led to an increased emphasis on renewable and cleaner energy resources to supply power. The DWR has taken a lead role in helping the power industry diversify the state’s electricity supply, with an eye toward supporting reliability and controlling costs, while recognizing that natural gas-fired generation continues to supply the bulk of the state’s electricity.

“The State of California has made tremendous progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and is helping to lead U.S. climate change action,” said Eric Gray, CEO, Americas, GE Gas Power, in a statement. “We are proud to support the State of California and the Department of Water Resources while demonstrating the highly efficient and flexible nature of gas power to support renewable energy and ensure system reliability with a low environmental footprint. We are helping the state of California meets its renewables and carbon mandates, while providing reliability to the electrical system when renewable resources are not sufficient to meet the state’s electricity demands.”  

The trailer-mounted GE TM2500 units are being deployed at two California sites to support the state’s electricity supply. Courtesy: California DWR

Officials said the need to quickly install new generation resources to provide power during periods of peak demand led to the decision to use aeroderivative gas turbines. GE’s TM2500, as noted earlier, is derived from jet-engine technology, and is mounted on a wheeled trailer for enhanced mobility. GE said more than 300 of the units are installed worldwide, often alongside permanent power installations, or for generating backup power after natural disasters, or to provide electricity to rural locations. The TM2500 has dual-fuel capability, able to operate on liquid fuel or natural gas, and also is capable of running on 75% hydrogen as a fuel.

“Kiewit has worked with GE on a wide range of power generation projects for many years, which allowed us to mobilize quickly and efficiently integrate the necessary equipment at the Roseville and Yuba City power plants,” said Dave Flickinger, executive vice president, Kiewit Power Constructors Co. “Our long-standing presence in California and understanding of local energy-related challenges, combined with solid working relationships with GE and DWR, also helped contribute to the success of the project.”

State Paying Roseville $1 Million

The Roseville Energy Park is home to the city’s municipal utility. California is paying the city $1 million to use the site this year, and $3.5 million each of the next two years as part of an $8 million contract. (A video of the Roseville project is available here.)

Calpine officials said the two units in Yuba City, like those in Roseville, will be available for dispatch at the direction of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which operates the state’s power grid. Yuba City officials have said the units will be available through year-end 2023. The site will use existing interconnection infrastructure to integrate about 50 MW of battery energy storage after the two gas-fired units are removed.

CAISO in early September submitted an emergency request for additional power generation; the request was approved by the Dept. of Energy (DOE) on Sept. 10. DOE approval enables CAISO to access generation that otherwise would be constrained by federal air regulations. CAISO in its request wrote, “This authorization will help the CAISO meet the existing emergency and serve the public interest by preventing or mitigating power disruptions and the potential curtailment of electricity load within the CAISO balancing authority area. To minimize any adverse impact on the environment, the CAISO will only dispatch the generating units identified in this request above their permitted levels during specified hours and only if necessary to meet exceptional levels of electricity demand or to address a transmission emergency that would otherwise create the risk of curtailing electric demand.”

California officials have said the state could see an electricity supply shortage of as much as 3,500 MW of generation during extreme weather conditions, or an even higher shortfall should severe heat and drought conditions persist. Heat waves in each of the past two years, and continued concerns about electrical equipment sparking wildfires that have ravaged the state, have led California utilities to preemptively institute blackouts in order to protect the grid.

Six similar GE turbines earlier this year were ordered by Colorado Springs Utilities in Colorado to temporarily replace power generation from the retiring coal-fired Martin Drake power plant, which is scheduled to be shuttered by year-end 2022.    

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

SHARE this article