General Electric to scrap power plant in California 20 years early

NEW YORK: General Electric Co said it plans to demolish a large power plant it owns in California this year after only one-third of its useful life because the plant is no longer economically viable in a state where wind and solar supply a growing share of inexpensive electricity.
The 750-megawatt natural-gas-fired plant, known as the Inland Empire Energy Center, uses two of GE’s H-Class turbines, developed only in the last decade, before the company’s successor gas turbine, the flagship HA model, which uses different technology.
The closure illustrates stiff competition in the deregulated energy market as cheap wind and solar supply more electricity, squeezing out fossil fuels. Some utilities say they have no plans to build more fossil plants.
It also highlights the stumbles of Boston-based GE with its first H-Class turbine. The complex, steam-cooled H design takes hours to start, suffered technical problems and sold poorly, experts said.
“We have made the decision to shut down operation of the Inland Empire Power Plant, which has been operating below capacity for several years, effective at the end of 2019,” GE said. The plant “is powered by a legacy gas turbine technology … and is uneconomical to support further.” In a filing with the California Energy Commission on Thursday, GE said the plant is “not designed for the needs of the evolving California market, which requires fast-start capabilities to satisfy peak demand periods.” GE’s newer HA turbine can power up in under an hour, more quickly than the H to match fluctuating supplies of wind and solar power, GE said. The large market for the H turbine that GE anticipated “did not develop and has resulted in an orphan technology installation at IEEC,” the filing said.
It added that GE will no longer support or make replacement parts for the H turbine. Only one other plant uses H turbines, Baglan Bay in Wales.
California approved the Inland Energy Center, located in Riverside County, about 75 miles (120.7 km) east of Los Angeles, in 2003 and the plant opened in 2009. Industry experts estimated it cost nearly $1 billion. Similar combined-cycle gas-power plants run for 30 years before being decommissioned, according to a recent study by S&P Global Market Intelligence. — Reuters