Council supports power plant study

A study looking into revamping the community’s sole electricity-generating plant with up-to-date technologies will soon be underway after winning unanimous support from the Glendale City Council on Tuesday.

In operation since 1941, the Grayson Power Plant generates 180,000 megawatt hours each year, about 15% of all the electricity used within the city, said Glendale Water & Power Director Steve Zurn.

But eight of the nine turbines at the facility are out of date, meaning they take hours to warm up before producing any power, he said.

“I was taken aback by some of the cost to make routine repairs and that had to do with the age of the system,” Zurn told council members. “The availability of the parts and even finding people to work on it has proven difficult because it’s so old.”

He added that implementing newer technologies could boost the amount of power generated locally, reducing the need to buy electricity from the city of Los Angeles.

The study, dubbed the Integrated Resource Plan, will be conducted by Fairfax, Va.-based Pace Global, a subsidiary of Siemens Industry. It will project Glendale’s electricity needs from 2016 through 2035 and go into detail about what would be required to modernize, or repower, the Grayson facility.

The proposed project could range from replacing all of the old turbines — a process entailing demolition, construction and a price tag of $250 million to $350 million — to taking no action at all, Zurn said.

Councilman Ara Najarian said he doesn’t want the report to focus on entirely replacing Grayson.

“I want to make sure that we’re completely neutral and open-minded, whether it’s closing [the power plant] or anything in between,” he said.

The $299,500 report will also look at how to possibly replace current out-of-state sources of energy for the city, such as the coal-fired Intermountain Power Project in Utah, set to expire in 2027.

Also to be considered is potentially connecting a revamped Grayson to the California Independent System Operator, an expansive power grid that could give the city additional and cheaper options for purchasing electricity, Zurn said.

The report is estimated to take roughly six months to complete and, at that time, council members will vote on the future of the power plant.

If council members want a new plant, it could be up and running as early as 2019 and financing would be the likely funding source for construction, Zurn said.

The council also voted to pay $7.5 million to Bakersfield-based Processes Unlimited International Inc. to provide engineering services for the project, but only if the council votes to repower the plant.

If council members reject the project, none of that money will be spent, Zurn said.

“They had to take a little risk to work with us,” he said. “They were looking at what it’s worth to try to get this job … we negotiated this price as well.”

The funding to pay the engineering firm would be allocated from current Glendale Water & Power revenues and would not mandate an increase in customer rates, Zurn said.

Mayor Zareh Sinanyan said he was pleased a price was able to be negotiated ahead of time or else it could have been much higher.

“That gives me a degree of comfort,” Sinanyan said.

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