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Califonia: New power plant wins energy panel's approval

State energy officials cleared the way for one of the largest new power plants to be built in California since electricity deregulation with approval Wednesday of a power plant near Tracy that will produce enough energy for 1,000 homes.

The $700 million, natural-gas-fired Tesla Power Plant project will generate 1,120 megawatts of electricity when it is completed in about two years.

That's about the time officials have predicted the state may be facing power shortages.

``In 2006 and beyond, we're going to need more new generation to keep an adequate surplus to avoid rolling blackouts, so this will help toward that goal,'' said California Energy Commission spokesman Chris Davis.

The commission approved the plant on a 4-0 vote. It will be built in eastern Alameda County by Midway Power, a Florida Power and Light subsidiary, and will use reclaimed wastewater from the city of Tracy for cooling. The company is looking to sign up a buyer for the power and has not set a groundbreaking date.

Since California deregulated its electricity system in 1996, the energy commission has approved 49 power plants totaling 20,140 megawatts -- 24 of those plants, which produce 8,311 megawatts, are now operating.

The state's biggest power plants, those producing over 1,000 megawatts, include Duke Energy's 1,060-megawatt Moss Landing expansion, which boosted the plant's total output to 2,500 megawatts in 2002, and the 1,124-megawatt La Paloma power plant built near Bakersfield last year.

Editorial Notes: DH writes: Consistent with Matt Simmons' warnings over the last few years - about 275 new gas plants were in the building or approval pipeline 2 years ago, and now they are coming on line. Their combined demand will (theoretically) push US natural gas consumption to over 30T (Trillion) cu.ft. per year, while current consumption is around 22 to 24T cu.ft. per year. Where will it all come from? Not Canada, that's for sure. LNG cannot ramp up that fast, and new LNG terminal proposals are all hitting major NIMBY roadblocks. There is a major error in this report, this plant would power about 1,000,000 homes, not 1,000.

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