Power play: State plans to build emergency power plant in Lodi
After last month’s unprecedented heatwave that caused an hours-long power outage, the City of Lodi and the State of California plan to build a facility to ensure a similar event does not happen again. The Lodi City Council unanimously approved partnering with the state to locate, develop, construct and operate a natural gas power plant during its Wednesday night meeting. The facility would create anywhere between 20 and 48 megawatts of emergency power and be delivered directly into Lodi, rather than be transferred through a third-party system, city manager Steve Schwabauer said. Although Lodi owns and operates its own electric utility, the city’s energy is currently delivered through three PG&E sub-transmission lines.
On the morning Sept. 8, a set of production relays on one of those sub-transmission lines failed at the substation located near Lodi and Guild avenues. Lodi Electric Utility staff replaced the relays almost immediately, but PG&E was required to approve the repairs, which took the entire day. With one relay down, the city said it was required to shed power, and it began implementing one-hour rotating power outages at about 4:40 p.m. that day. The outages lasted 61⁄2 hours.
On Wednesday, Schwabauer told the council that staff and PG&E are currently discussing whether the rotating blackouts were an appropriate solution to the equipment failure. “But in the meantime, we are subject to this happening again if another line were to go down,” Schwabauer said. “Electric utility assets are supposed to be constructed to be resilient enough to handle one element going down. In this case, the transmission lines are not able to handle one line going down.” Schwabauer said the new facility, to be funded completely by the state, would only generate power in the event of an emergency, and must be operational by the summer of 2023.
In addition, it would only be needed until about 2028, when PG&E’s Northern San Joaquin 230kV Transmission Project is complete. Formerly known as Northern San Joaquin Power Connect, the 230kV project involves connecting an existing PG&E transmission line into the agency’s Lockeford substation on Kettleman Lane just east of Highway 88. The project also includes building a new overhead transmission line from the Lockeford substation to a new switching station on Thurman Street in Lodi.
A location for the proposed Lodi power plant has not been identified, Schwabauer said, mainly because staff only learned of the project last week at the Northern California Power Agency Annual Conference. “The location question is dependent upon a number of factors,” he said. “It needs to be close to a substation. It needs to be close to a gas line. It needs to be physically possible to get a gas line to it. It needs to be physically possibly to connect electricity to it.”
Taking these factors into consideration, Schwabauer said staff is examining the feasibility of three locations: the existing Industrial Road substation, the substation at Lodi Lake near the water treatment plant and the General Mills facility. “This is a great opportunity for our community not to ever have to experience 6.5 hours of rolling blackouts, (that is) funded by the State of California,” he said. “It will, if it’s constructed, provide some relief to the state of California as well. It has a greater benefit to the state because it creates new (energy) generation.” While the power plant will be funded by the state, Schwabauer said the city will incur about $4 million in costs.
However, he said those costs will be reimbursed by the state to interconnect the power plant into the Lodi Electric Utility system. Other costs the city could potentially incur are land purchases or leasing the site, if the General Mills facility is chosen as the location, he said. “I think this is a wonderful chance for our city to take advantage of this opportunity, that is unprecedented,” Councilman Doug Kuehne said.