A crowd of approximately 150 attended the festivities that marked the official start of construction of the 614-megawatt, state-of-the-art, natural-gas-fired, combined-cycle power plant. The station, located on Bridgehead Road on 22 acres at the former DuPont property, will offer one of the first applications of General Electric’s latest, advanced 7FA gas turbine, which will operate more efficiently and be more environmentally friendly than previous turbines. The new technology will eliminate 19,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually and use 93 percent less water than conventional power plants.
“This is a beautiful day,” said Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier as he welcomed the crowd to the invitation-only event. “It’s been a long process … but here we are today, and it’s a good day. Let’s get this party started.”
Danville-based Radback Energy formally introduced the Oakley Generating Station project back in November of 2009 when the project went before the California Energy Commission (CEC) for its first public hearing. After months of investigations, the CEC approved the project in May of this year. The construction of the plant is expected to take 32 months and create more than 700 union jobs. After completion, a crew of approximately 20 will operate the facility.
Frazier said he and the Oakley council are proud to welcome Radback and GE to Oakley and look forward to their continued partnership. Radback has already contributed to the community in many ways, most recently helping fund a portion of the fireworks show at the annual Oakley Cityhood Celebration. Radback officials have also pledged to start a community benefits program in which Radback will contribute approximately $6 million to establish a community grant program for local nonprofit organizations and to fund city capital improvement projects.
Radback CEO Bryan Bertacchi also expressed gratitude for the partnership and looks forward to Radback becoming part of the community. “Developing new projects in California teaches you one thing: you need a lot of oars in the water to create a project like this one,” Bertacchi told the crowd. “But in my personal experience over the last 30 years, the oars aren’t all paddling in the same direction and you’re going around in circles. But we’re here today because this group spent four years paddling together, working toward the same goal.”
California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey admitted the project had a “tortured” history, as Radback officials and community representatives campaigned vigorously to win over the CPUC commissioners. Although the commission initially denied the project, Peevey now sees no downsides to the multi-million-dollar enterprise. The CPUC’s original denial was due to commissioners’ belief that the plant was unnecessary, but Peevey told the crowd at Tuesday’s event that the Oakley Generating Station will play a key role in the future of energy-generating technology.
With the construction of the Oakley Generating Station and its utilization of advanced technologies, California will be less dependent on – or will retire – older and less-efficient power plants. Pacific Gas and Electric plans to purchase the plant once it’s completed.
“We are very pleased that GE’s latest 7FA gas turbine technology is a driving force behind this milestone project,” said Paul Browning, president and CEO of thermal products for GE Energy. “The Oakley plant will offer high efficiency, low emissions and the operating flexibility that enables greater use of renewable energy such as wind or solar power. The flexibility of the 7FA gas turbine enables a natural gas plant to be turned up when the grid needs energy, and turned down when renewable energy is available. We believe the greater use of renewable energy, in combination with natural gas, is the future of power generation.”