Healdsburg, Ukiah benefit from state's cleanest, most efficient natural-gas power plant

It's billed as the cleanest and most efficient natural gas-fueled power plant in California.

When it goes on line in mid-September, it will generate electricity to pump water along the California Aqueduct and run BART trains.

But it also will provide power to homes and businesses in Healdsburg and Ukiah, which both belong to the 16-member Northern California Power Agency that built the $451 million plant.

"It's a win-win for California," Healdsburg Mayor Gary Plass said Monday. "It is a fossil fuel. It's also a fossil fuel that's plentiful in the United States and one we don't have to import."

Two years under construction, the 300-megawatt Lodi Energy Center is being hailed as the future of natural gas plants that produce electricity.

Its turbine, designed and built by German manufacturer Siemens A.G., is touted for its fast-start technology, allowing it to quickly bring the facility to full generating capacity.

Officials say that cuts greenhouse gases by about 30 percent compared to traditional natural gas fueled plants.

But the fast-starting turbine also allows operators to quickly ramp production up and down to match market demand, reducing overall costs to the consumer.

NCPA officials said the new plant, which is tied into the statewide grid operator that constantly manages power demands, will help play backup to renewable sources of electricity, such as wind and solar power, that can be affected by weather.

"As the use of renewables go up, the use of this plant may drop. It's always there to back them up," said Plass, who also is NCPA chairman.

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