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State OKs Major Expansion of Power Plant

Energy: $535-million proposal would make Monterey Bay facility California's largest. Final approval is expected in October.

August 30, 2000|CHRIS KRAUL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

California officials, scrambling to boost electricity supplies, gave preliminary approval Tuesday to plans for turning a power plant at Moss Landing into the state's largest by 2003.

The California Energy Commission tentatively endorsed the $535-million proposal by Duke Energy Corp. to nearly double the capacity of the Monterey Bay plant, which Duke bought from Pacific Gas & Electric in 1998.

It is the first power plant expansion to win preliminary approval since California deregulated its electricity market in 1998. Final approval is expected.

The project is one of several in the planning stages that state authorities hope will alleviate the state's deepening electricity crisis. Rising demand and higher natural-gas prices have caused energy bills to skyrocket in some parts of the state.

The Moss Landing plant is between Santa Cruz and Monterey.

The commission, the state agency with final authority over power plant permits, will conduct a deciding vote on the project in late October after public comment, spokeswoman Claudia Chandler said.

Duke Energy plans to add 1,060 megawatts to Moss Landing's 1,500-megawatt capacity. It will also upgrade the existing gas-fired turbines to make them cleaner and more efficient.

When completed, the plant will generate enough power to light 2.6 million homes in Central California and the San Francisco Bay Area. It will produce more electricity than either the Diablo Canyon or San Onofre nuclear plants.

The added power will be generated by two natural-gas generating turbines that will reduce pollution by 80% from historical levels.

Duke also owns the 1,000-megawatt Morro Bay power plant on the Central Coast, where it has proposed a $600-million expansion, and the 700-megawatt generating station in Chula Vista, which it bought from San Diego Gas & Electric and where a similar modernization is planned.

* POWER SHOCK

California's power emergency has been a rude awakening for the biggest users. A1

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