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Sunrise Power Plant Expands Commercial Output

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Times Staff Writer

Bringing some much-needed electrons to California, a Kern County power plant owned by Edison International and ChevronTexaco Corp. began expanded commercial operation Monday, a month ahead of schedule.

The Sunrise power plant, which began operating in June 2001 at 325 megawatts, now is capable of generating 570 megawatts, the two companies said. That’s enough to serve nearly 500,000 homes.

The plant is owned equally by Rosemead-based Edison and San Ramon, Calif.-based ChevronTexaco and is operated by Edison subsidiary Edison Mission Energy.

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State energy officials expect to fend off blackouts this summer through the extra contribution of Sunrise and several other new power plants, continued conservation by businesses and consumers and the usage-damping effect of the sluggish economic recovery.

The California Independent System Operator declared a Stage 1 power emergency Wednesday when unexpectedly high temperatures hit most of the state and electricity customers did not conserve power as anticipated. A Stage 1 is declared when power reserves fall below 7%.

“The recent Stage 1 power alert in California illustrates how critical such new sources of power continue to be to the state’s consumers,” said Thomas R. McDaniel, Edison Mission Energy’s chief executive.

Sunrise began operation as a simple-cycle facility that burned natural gas to spin turbines, which generate electricity. The expanded Sunrise is a more efficient combined-cycle plant that converts the exhaust from the turbines into steam, which is used to run another set of turbines to create more electricity.

All of the electricity from the Bakersfield-area power plant is sold to the state Department of Water Resources under a contract that runs until 2012. That contract was renegotiated late last year to reduce its cost by $121 million.

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