CGNP’S Summary Objections to PG&E’s Plan to Close DCPP in 2025
1. PG&E’s current plan to replace DCPP’s annual power production is to expand the four following approaches to maintain its carbon emissions at the current level.
A. Increase the use of solar power.
B. Increase the use of wind power.
C. Increase the use of electric power storage.
D. Increase the use of Demand Reduction.
2. All four of the above approaches require the PG&E expend substantial funds that will ultimately come from ratepayers. None of the above four approaches will allow PG&E to maintain its carbon emissions at the current level after 2025. Currently, PG&E generates about 18 TWh each year from DCPP, California’s largest power generator by far. DCPP generates about five times the annual output of Hoover Dam or about 13 times the annual output of the new Topaz Solar generating facility in eastern San Luis Obispo County.
Topaz covers 9.5 square miles and was built at a cost of about $2.4 billion dollars. Thus, a solar-powered replacement to DCPP would cost approximately $31 billion and cover 123.5 square miles of precious California land. Costs for wind energy to replace DCPP would likely be higher, requiring more land. Solar and wind power levels are subject to harmful random fluctuations. In addition, the solar power is generated in the five hours centered around solar noon. California’s peak power demand period is in the late afternoon.
Thus, solar (or wind) would require an unprecedented amount of energy storage, with storage power losses between 25-50%. The storage requirements are far in excess of the bulk power storage system that PG&E designed for use in conjunction with DCPP, namely Helms Pumped Storage located in the Sierra foothills to the east of Fresno. DCPP pumps water uphill at Helms during the night using DCPP’s surplus power. Then, in the late afternoon, Helms Pumped Storage releases the power equal to one of DCPP’s twin reactors. Thus, Californians in PG&E’s service territory use the equivalent of 3 DCPP reactors of emission-free power in the late afternoon, powering us through the period of peak demand with no brownouts or blackouts.
As a consequence of California’s large projected population growth of more than 14 million new Californians by 2060, relative to the 2010 baseline of 37 million, demand reduction schemes are doomed to failure.
The dirty reality is that PG&E (and the power generating entities that it purchases power from) will increase the combustion of natural gas within California to generate the huge amount of missing power. In addition, increased importation of out-of-state electric power from the burning of dirty coal beyond the ~18 TWh/year now used is likely. These actions will exacerbate global warming. Instead, for the sake of clean air for our children, and for the benefit of our planet, DCPP should encouraged to continue to operate well beyond 2025.
Gene Nelson, Ph.D., Government Liaison
Californians for Green Nuclear Power
San Luis Obispo, California