Grayson consultation will cost city $470,000

The City Council has reluctantly agreed to spend $470,000 on consultants to study rehabilitating an aging part of the Grayson Power Plant — a project that the city may ultimately be unable to afford.

Earlier this month, the council voted 4-1, with Councilman Ara Najarian dissenting, to hire four consultants to study the feasibility of repowering part of the power plant where the city burns its landfill gas.

The Grayson Power Plant has three boiler units that are inefficient and increasingly expensive to maintain, according to a city report. But officials have been deferring maintenance in order to study whether to repower the plant altogether, demolish and rebuild, or do nothing.

However, some council members weren’t sure if they wanted to pay for such an expensive study if the city may not be able to afford to fix the problem.

“I just feel a little uneasy with that amount to give us something we may reject anyway based on our financial situation,” Najarian said, noting that the city was already weighing a water rate increase because of a lack of funds to pay for other capital improvements.

Councilman Rafi Manoukian echoed his sentiments.

“It’s a lot of money for consultants,” Manoukian said, asking why utility officials couldn’t do the feasibility study.

Steve Lins, chief assistant general manager at Glendale Water & Power, said the study required technical expertise that in-house staff members don’t have. He added that although the study was costly, more information was needed to make the right decision.

“It could end up being an over $100-million decision that last decades,” Lins said.

Repowering a plant entails replacing old parts, while rebuilding would completely replace boiler units, Glendale Water & Power General Manager Glenn Steiger said.

Maintenance would include simply renovating old parts.

Grayson is the city’s only power plant, and many of its boiler units are past their useful life, Lins said. Some are more than 50 years old, he said.

While the city purchases much of its energy from outside sources, Grayson plays an important role in the city’s renewable energy portfolio, and acts as a backup during disasters. During the Station fire, the plant was running at full capacity, powering Glendale as well as other parts of Los Angeles, Lins said.

About 20% of the city’s energy comes from the plant, Steiger said, depending on consumption.

Grayson is also where the city burns landfill gas from Scholl Canyon. Burning the gas turns it into renewable energy — an important part of Glendale’s energy portfolio as it increases the city’s percentage of renewable resources.

By 2020, the city must use 33% renewable energy, according to state mandates. It’s currently at about 20%.

Najarian asked if the consultant work could be postponed, but Lins said the study was long overdue.

“We like to face the facts as soon as possible,” he said.

The study is set to be presented to the council in July 2012.

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