The Quail Brush Generation Project (“Quail Brush”) is a proposed 100 megawatt (MW) natural gas-fired power plant being built to provide electricity during periods of peak demand or as needed when electricity from renewable (wind and/or solar) sources is not available. Because it is targeted for peaking service, the project is limited by contract to operate 3,800 hours per year (approximately 43% of the total annual hours in a year).
Following are questions that have been asked about the Quail Brush Generation Project. These have been organized by topic category and links to each have been provided for ease of navigation.
CEC Review Process
Q: Why is the project needed?
The Quail Brush project is designed for
efficiency and rapid start capabilities. Its primary purpose as a peaking facility is to provide
electricity when needed and to do so quickly, providing support to the existing
transmission grid and maintaining overall reliability of the system to deliver
electricity to customers without interruption of service.
For all of the benefits derived from the
production of renewable energy, there are going to be periods when this power
will not be available to energy consumers, such as when the sun is not shining
or the wind is not blowing. Because the
demand for electricity typically does not simultaneously drop when renewable
sources are not available, other sources are needed to quickly supply energy to
the grid. The Quail Brush Generating
project is targeted at this need.
Q: How did the project come about?
A: The Quail Brush Generation Project is the result of the SDG&E 2009 competitive request for offers (RFO). A power purchase agreement has been signed by both SDG&E and Quail Brush Genco, LLC, and is currently before the California Public Utility Commission for approval.
Q: What is the anticipated timeline for development of the Quail Brush project?
A: The anticipated timeline is:
- 2012: CEC Review
- First Quarter 2013: Estimated construction start
- 2014: Target date for start of operation
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CEC Review Process
Q: What is the CEC’s role in the project approval process?
A: The CEC is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. The CEC’s responsibilities include licensing of thermal power plants of 50 megawatts or greater. The CEC serves as the lead agency under state law for permitting such facilities, with other agencies providing input to the process. A detailed explanation of the CEC process can be found at http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/quailbrush/index.html in the Public Participation section.
Q: What is the status of the Quail Brush project in the CEC application and approval process?
A: Quail Brush filed its Application for Certification (AFC) with the CEC on August 29, 2011. The AFC was accepted as "Data Adequate" on November 16, 2011 and represents the date the CEC permitting process began. The Quail Brush Generation Project Docket Number is 11-AFC-03. The AFC and other materials regarding the Project can be found in the Documents and Reports Section of the CEC website.
Q: Why isn't the CEC analyzing the impacts of the project running at full capacity 100 percent of the time?
A: The facility is specifically designed for limited service within the SDG&E system. It is contracted as and will be operated as a "peaking facility", and as such will be called into service only during peak demand times or when there is a need for rapid delivery of electricity because other sources, particularly those from solar and wind resources, are not immediately available. The contract executed with SDG&E will only allow the project to operate 3,800 hours per year (approximately 43% of the 8,760 total hours in a year). The CEC is required to review an application based on the requirements provided for in the contract.
A facility that is expected to run close to 100% of the time is considered a "base-load"' facility. Base load generation is typically the most efficient and cost effective generation available to a load serving utility. To convert the Project from a peaking facility, as it is currently contracted, to one that would function as a base load facility would entail numerous activities to ensure it met the requirements of such a service commitment. The utility would need to issue a request for offers (RFO) for base-load generation, a firm price offer would be submitted in response to this RFO, a short-list of potential bidders would be developed by the utility, a contract would be negotiated and signed, the contract would be submitted to the California PUC for approval, and an application for this revised project would then be submitted to the CEC for approval. The CEC process would be the same as the one currently underway for the peaking project, and the public would again have the opportunity to participate throughout the rigorous and transparent process.
Q: Why weren't more Santee neighbors notified?
A: The CEC is the permitting agency for the proposed project and is responsible for notifying stakeholders and interested parties. Notifications do not occur until an application is deemed Data Adequate by the CEC. Pursuant to regulations, in addition to notifying various agencies, the CEC notifies potentially affected landowners within 1,000 feet of a proposed project and 500 feet of linear infrastructure projects (transmission line and gas pipeline). In conjunction with the CEC's public notices to property owners, the CEC Public Advisor Office publishes initial notices in one or more local newspapers.
Since the Quail Brush project was deemed Data Adequate the CEC has held (i) a CEC/City of San Diego workshop in December 2011 that was open to the public, (ii) a public hearing in January 2012, and (iii) a public workshop in March 2012. These meetings were all held in the vicinity of the proposed project rather than in Sacramento. Additionally, the CEC conducts project status update meetings that are open to the public. The last status update meeting was held in May 2012. The CEC will schedule additional public workshops in the future. The public can sign up to receive notifications regarding all information filed with the CEC and all CEC notices regarding the Project at the CEC website.
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Q: Where will the Quail Brush project be located?
A: The project will be located on approximately 10 acres north of Route 52 off of Sycamore Landfill Road in the City of San Diego.
Q: What are the site alternatives that were proposed in the project application to the CEC?
A: Three site alternatives were proposed in the AFC. The alternative sites considered can be found in Section 3.3.2 – Alternative Project Sites of the AFC under Applicant's Documents at the
Q: Why was the proposed project site selected?
A: The site was selected because of its proximity to existing electric transmission corridors and an existing natural gas pipeline, and the ability to deliver economic electric generation to the utility system where it is needed.
Additionally, the proposed site was chosen over all evaluated alternative sites because it has the lowest biological, cultural, air quality and transportation impacts. The CEC, during its detailed and robust review process, will examine the proposed project site as well as all three alternatives. Quail Brush will adhere to the recommendations resulting from this review process.
Q: How far away is the plant from the nearest school?
A: The proposed site is approximately 3,500 feet (2/3 of a mile) west-northwest of West Hills High School.
Q: What is going to happen if a truck carrying hazardous materials to or from the plant has an accident?
A: Due to the technology being utilized, the quantity of materials classified as hazardous will be minimal. If an accident were to occur in transporting materials within or to and from the site, personnel (construction and operating) properly trained for such incidents, will handle all incidental releases of materials. An onsite health and safety person will be designated to implement project specific guidelines and to contact emergency response personnel, if necessary. Emergency response policies and procedures will be outlined in a Hazardous Material Business Plan that will be prepared before the Project becomes operational. This Plan will also detail the necessary actions to be taken by facility personnel in the event of a hazardous material release to the air, soil, or surface waters in the plant vicinity. These procedures will include a notification checklist with contact information for qualified individuals at the site, local emergency response agencies, regulatory agencies, police, fire, hospital, and ambulance services. For a complete description of all materials that could potentially be used during construction and operation of the Project, please see Section 4.9 of the AFC.
Q: Isn’t there going to be a significant increase in traffic congestion during the construction period?
A: No. Construction workers will park at an offsite location and be shuttled to the Project site. Construction hours will be established taking into account morning and evening rush hours to minimize volume impacts. Traffic mitigation details will be established and implemented in accordance with a Traffic Control Plan/Traffic Management Plan to ensure appropriate traffic control and safety measures are included and adhered to.
Q: Isn’t there going to be a significant increase in traffic congestion near West Hills High School?
A: No. During construction, the intersection of West Hills Parkway and Mast Boulevard will be minimally impacted. We are working with West Hills High School to determine high traffic times and how they can be avoided. Based on initial studies, the increase in traffic delay at the entrance of West Hills High School during site construction is projected to be negligible. Once the Project is in operation, and due to the relatively low number of personnel required to operate the Project, West Hills High School will not be impacted by increased traffic congestion.
Q: Are you tapping methane gas from the landfill for use at your facility?
Q: Where does your natural gas come from?
A: The natural gas will be supplied through an underground 8-inch pipeline connected to SDG&E's existing 20-inch pipeline located at Mast Boulevard and West Hills Parkway. The natural gas used by the plant is the same as that used in local homes and businesses and will be delivered from the same existing natural gas distribution system. SDG&E will construct and own the new 8-inch pipeline.
Q: Won’t the power plant increase the risk of fires?
A: No. In fact, the plant could provide some benefit to fire protection in the area. The plant will be designed to include the most up to date safety measures, including a plant-wide fire protection system. Water storage tanks with significant quantities of water reserved solely for fire-service will be on-site. As is our long-standing policy, if this fire water can be of service to local fire departments to serve emergencies in the area near the site, we will make it available as allowed.
Q: Won’t the power plant be like a bomb if there are wildfires in the area?
A: No. There is no storage of natural gas on-site. Natural gas will be delivered to the engines via underground lines. These supply lines are themselves fed from the existing underground gas lines that currently supply gas to the community. The plant’s design incorporates a comprehensive fire protection system for incidents that may occur inside the operating enclosure and throughout the entire plant site. If a fire was to occur anywhere on-site, the plant’s operating design includes a system that would automatically and immediately close gas supply valves on the main supply pipeline that would stop the flow of any gas on-site.
Q: Isn’t the high pressure gas line a threat to health and safety?
A: No. The proposed natural gas delivery system associated with the Project is an extension of the existing system that supplies gas to the community surrounding the site, and as such does not pose an incremental increased threat to health and safety. Natural gas will be delivered to the site via a new underground 8-inch diameter pipeline lateral that will connect to the existing 20-inch diameter pipeline along Mast Boulevard. Once on-site, the natural gas will flow through a pressure control station that will reduce the pressure to 75 to 80 psig from the much higher pressures of the existing pipeline prior to the gas being distributed to the individual engines and their control equipment. The entire gas lateral will be designed and constructed to meet the strict safety requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Part 192, Transportation of Natural and Other Gas by Pipeline: Minimum Federal Safety Standards and all other applicable safety requirements.
Q: The Padre Dam is proposing to expand its facility near the Santee Lakes. Is this in response to the increased water needs from the proposed Quail Brush Generation Project?
A: No. Padre Dam's planned plant expansion is not related to, nor is a result of the proposed Quail Brush Generation Project. The proposed plant expansion is to increase local water supply for Padre Dam's customers.
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Q: What type of technology is being used?
A: Quail Brush will produce electricity through the use of 11 high efficiency, reciprocating engine generator sets specifically designed for low noise, low air emissions and very low water use. This technology has been commercially demonstrated in several hundred installations worldwide and is ideally suited for the purpose of this Project.
Q: Isn’t this old technology?
A: No. Internal combustion technologies today are vastly more advanced than those of a few years ago. Just as with the engines in automobiles today, while they may be based upon the same basic technology as that invented around the turn of the 20th Century, to classify today’s engines as “old” would be incorrect. The same applies to the engines proposed for the Project. And just as with the automobile engine, technologic advances, efficiencies and environmental emission profile improvements continue to be made.
Q: The application says the plant will run only 43% of the time, but then they admit it will run 94% to 98%. How is that possible?
A: Under the terms of the contract with SDG&E, the plant will not be allowed to operate more than 3,800 hours in any given year. In a given year, there are 8,760 hours, so the plant will not be allowed to operate more than ~43% of the time on an annual basis.
It appears that the 94% to 98% figures being suggested as an overall operating profile may be confused with what is the overall contractual reliability of the Project. The contractual reliability of the project is the percentage of time the plant is expected to operate when called into operation, ie. a statement of reliability that power will actually be delivered when it is needed. In other words, out of the 3,800 hours allowed per year under the contract, the expected reliability of power delivery from the Project would be between 3,570 and 3,725 hours each year (94% - 98%).
Q: What is the impact of the emissions on the environment?
A: The plant will be designed to strictly comply with all state and federal air emission requirements. The ambient air quality standards, which the plant will comply with, are set by California Air Resources Board, Air Pollution Control District (APCD), and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to assure the protection of human health and the environment. Plant emissions are currently being examined by the CEC in its review process as well as by the APCD and USEPA. Each plant exhaust stack will be equipped with a Continuous Emissions Monitoring System to verify that emissions are at or below permitted values. Failure to comply with state and federal emission requirements will result in significant penalties and possible shut-down of the power plant. Information on air emissions and the analysis can be found on the CEC website in the Documents and Reports Section of the AFC application.
Q: Is the power plant a threat to health and safety?
A: No. The Project will not have a significant impact on public health from emissions. The plant’s emissions will comply with all federal and state regulations. The plant will also employ emission control technologies necessary to meet the required emission standards specified for criteria pollutants under the San Diego Air Pollution Control District (SDAPCD) rules.
The air dispersion modeling results show that plant emissions will not result in concentrations of criteria pollutants in the air that exceed (federal and/or state) ambient air quality standards. The purpose of these ambient air quality standards is to protect the general public with a wide margin of safety.
A public health risk assessment was conducted for the Project. The estimated lifetime risks to a potential individual most at risk and located at the Project maximum impact receptor (closest to the plant) are well below significance levels. These risk estimates were calculated using assumptions that are highly conservative. Evaluation of risks associated with the power plant emissions are conservative in their assumptions and methods used, and as a result, tend to overstate risks from plant emissions. There are no significant public health impacts anticipated from operational emissions from the proposed power plant. More information can be found in the AFC under Applicant’s Documents in Section 4.8 and Append F.4 at the CEC website.
Q: The Project will use natural gas which produces carbon monoxide. Won’t the carbon monoxide be dangerous to human health?
A: No. The use of natural gas in the production of electricity is the cleanest of all fossil fuels. Any emissions from the plant will be regulated and monitored to ensure they do not exceed the stringent state and federal regulatory limits that have been established to protect the natural environment and the health and safety of all people and animals.
Q: Why is the CEC only evaluating effects of the Project on sensitive people (young and old) and not everyone else, particularly those with health issues?
A: Sensitive receptors are defined as groups of individuals that may be more susceptible to health risks due to exposure. It is the intent of the federal and state environmental regulations to analyze impacts on those most susceptible on the presumption that by analyzing risks to the most sensitive of the population, the entire population is protected.
Q: Will you see steam rising from the stacks?
A: As an engine is being started, there could be short periods when water vapor may be visible at or near the top of the stack. This is a result of the relative humidity that may exist at a particular time of day (early morning) and water formed during the natural gas combustion process. This is similar to that seen when first starting a car engine. And just as in the case of a car, as the engine approaches its normal operating temperature, the water vapor is also heated and is no longer visible.
Q: Will there be a smell from the plant?
Q: Will there be red blinking lights on the top of the stacks?
A: No. FAA regulations do not require blinking lights on the top of the stacks due to their relative low height.
Q: Will the plant be lit up at night? For example, will there be spot lights or bright lights that light up the facility?
A: There will be lighting at the plant for operational safety and security purposes, but the lighting design will be optimized and will be focused downward, minimizing visual impacts offsite.
Q: How big is the power plant and what is the building made of?
A: The building housing the engines is expected to be approximately 365 feet long and 70 feet wide. At its peak, the building roof will be approximately 32 feet tall. As currently proposed, the building will be a metal clad enclosure that is specifically designed to reduce noise.
Q: How will Quail Brush minimize visual impacts?
A: Quail Brush is working with engineers and local landscape architects to minimize potential visual impacts while still meeting the applicable modeling protocols and stringent federal and state air emissions and air quality standards. This effort if focused on, among others, exploring alternative stack heights, stack arrangements, building designs, architectural materials and colors, overall site planning and site landscaping.
Q: Are the reciprocating engines air cooled or water cooled?
A: Air cooled. A closed loop, fin-fan radiator type system will be used for engine cooling (similar to a car engine, but on a larger scale). As a result, very little water is needed in the energy producing process. The predominant water use at the site will result from the potable needs of the plant staff. The average daily water usage for all facility needs is expected to be 1.00 gallon per minute (gpm) or 1.61 acre feet per year (afy) with 0.14 gpm used for engine cooling. At peak usage (maximum summer condition), water consumption is expected to be 1.25 gpm with 0.18 gpm used for engine cooling. By way of comparison, a typical faucet in a home delivers water at a rate of between 3 and 8 gpm.
Q: What type of water will be used?
A: Because the water demands of the project are very low, all water supplied to the site, both during construction and for operations, will be provided via truck delivery for on-site storage in tanks.
Q: What are the dBA noise levels at the property line?
A: Operational sound levels will comply with City of San Diego and City of Santee laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards (LORS) requirements. Measurements taken in the field have shown that existing base-line background sound levels in the area where the plant is proposed are between 41-58 dBA during the day and 34-56 dBA at night. For illustrative purposes, 35-40 dBA is considered faint and comparable to sitting in a quiet living room. 45-58 dBA is considered quiet and comparable to light auto traffic (Adapted from Kurze and Beranek (1988) and USEPA (1971)).
When the plant is running, the cumulative increase in noise at the nearest residence is projected to be 1 dBA above existing base-line background levels. A 1 dBA increase or decrease is a
non-perceptible change in sound. A discernible change in sound level is not reached until a 5 dBA change in sound level is achieved.
Q: Will the construction of the site comply with the city noise ordinance?
Q: Will the San Diego River be impacted during plant construction and operation?
A: Yes. Any sound generated during construction will comply with City of Santee and City of San Diego noise ordinances.
Q: Will there be radio or television interference?
A: No. The tributaries of the San Diego River will not be affected during construction or operation of the facility. The City of San Diego's Municipal Code 43.0301, (Storm Water Management and Discharge Control ordinance) prohibits pollutant discharges, including sediment, to flow from work sites into creeks, rivers, bays and the ocean. To ensure compliance with the law and keep the project on schedule, Best Management Practices (BMPs) must be in place and functioning during construction and plant operation. BMPs must be checked and maintained daily. The Storm Water Management and Discharge Control ordinance can be found here.
Q: How will storm water run-off be controlled at the Project site?
Q: Are there any waste streams during operation which may impact the natural storm water system?
A: Stormwater run-off will not be allowed to leave the site in an uncontrolled manner. During construction, Best Management Practices will include site perimeter controls, and internal material storage and containment.
Once the plant is operational, storm water will be collected in a series of retention ponds and bio-retention areas on-site. The purpose of these ponds and areas is to encourage storm water infiltration and a release of stormwater to the environment in a manner mimicking the pre-construction discharge characteristics at the site.
Q: Will a permit be required for storm water control activities?
A: Yes. Permits for the construction and operational storm water discharges will be required. The construction Storm Water Discharge Permit will be issued by the City of San Diego and will require a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) to be developed and implemented. The City of San Diego's Storm Water Standards Manual provides information on how to comply with the construction and permanent storm water quality requirements for new development projects in the City of San Diego. The manual can be found here.
Q: What agency monitors compliance and what are the penalties for failure to comply?
A: The City of San Diego Storm Water Pollution Prevention Division works with their Development Services Division field inspectors and engineers to ensure construction sites are in compliance with storm water laws. Contractors, site supervisors, and property owners are held responsible for violations, and failure to prevent illegal discharges can result in severe financial penalties and clean-up reimbursement.
A: The Project will have no operational waste products which will enter the storm water system. All water and wastewater generated on-site, which has the potential for contamination will be captured on-site and contained in wastewater holding tanks. Holding tank content will be collected and conveyed off-site by a licensed contractor.
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Q: Will the Quail Brush project benefit the community?
A: The Quail Brush Generation Project will provide many benefits to the community:
- Provides support in meeting renewable energy goals;
- Enhances transmission system reliability;
- Will secure and dedicate additional land for conservation in the Mission Trails Regional Park;
- Supports environmental stewardship through the use of advanced, high efficiency engine technology that produces energy with minimal water usage;
- Represents a capital investment in excess of $150 million;
- Increases the local tax base;
- Will provide approximately 150 construction jobs over an 18 month period; and
- Will provide employment for 11 (eleven) local, full-time personnel when operational.
Q: Will the workers be local?
A: We anticipate that approximately 90 percent of the workers will be from the local San Diego metropolitan area.
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