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PG&E charges ahead
It's been a while, but Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is back in the business of building power plants.
Wednesday's groundbreaking for the Colusa Generating Station in Delevan marks the second power plant to be built by the energy giant since California's electricity deregulation in the 1990s forced the state's utilities to sell off most of their power stations.
PG&E broke ground on a similar plant near Antioch last November.
"It wasn't all that long ago that we had rolling blackouts (in 2001) and paid exorbitant prices for power," said Colusa County Supervisor Gary J. Evans, whose district will host the $700 million power plant. "This plant will help meet California's need for power. It's good for the state; it's good for Colusa County."
The new generating station is scheduled to begin operation by 2010.
PG&E's plan endured two years of county and state review, along with complaints by nearby farmers about possible air pollution and concerns from Maxwell firefighters about the cost of protecting the power plant.
The California Energy Commission approved the station in April, after the utility agreed to hire a consultant to decide how much money PG&E should pay the Maxwell Fire District for the extra vehicles, equipment and staff needed deal with a fire or accident there.
The plant will produce up to 660 megawatts of electricity, enough to power nearly 500,000 homes, according to Randy Livingston, PG&E vice president in charge of power generation.
Fueled by natural gas, the plant will be built to increase its use of renewable energy - not fossil fuels.
"We're working to meet 20 percent power generation from renewable sources by 2010," Livingston said. "We'll have the cleanest energy in the whole country."
The plant will be located next to the existing PG&E natural gas compressor station and the company's 230,000-volt transmission line and natural gas pipeline.
The generating station and electrical switchyard will comprise 31 acres of a 100-acre parcel in the rolling hills of northwest Colusa County, west of old Highway 99W and Interstate 5.
The station will use dry-cooling technology and will use 97 percent less water than a facility with a conventional water-cooling system, according to PG&E.
"Compared to older plants, the new facility will yield 35 percent less carbon dioxide for every megawatt-hour of power produced," Livingston said. "It really is a wonder in technology."
By the time PG&E, state and county officials showed up for the brief groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, the roar of heavy equipment was already echoing over the Coast Range foothills.
Construction will take about 1.5 million workerhours and employ some 650 people.
Once opened, the plant will employ about two dozen full-time workers.
Contact Susan Meeker at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Appeal-Democrat reporter Howard Yune contributed to this report.