By Dr. Robert Peltier, PE September 2003 Platts Power Magazine
Mix one part power plant with one part city seeking to grow its industrial base and you have a recipe for a public-private partnership that developed one sweet project. Victorville's High Desert plant proves that a desperately needed power plant can meet strict environmental standards while priming the pump of local development efforts. In recognition of its innovative approaches to project partnering, air emissions offsetting, and water management, High Desert Plant is POWER magazine's 2003 Plant of the Year. The plant is located just outside the city of Victorville, 120 miles morheast of Los Angeles.
“The Victorville plant was one of more than 100 worldwide nominees for an award industry insiders consider the equivalent of The Oscar."
These days, the toughest part of building a new power plant anywhere in developed countries has nothing to do with designing it or assembling its pieces. Mor often than not, at permitting hearings, the developer must convince local residents that the plant will do more good than harm. Those hearings were much less contentious than usual. Victorville actually wanted the plant to be built in its backyard because the city fathers knew it could be a catalyst for Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) redevelopment.
Inland Energy Inc.'s founder, Buck Johns, conceived the High Desert Power Project (HDPP) in the early 90's. He envisioned it as a response to three trends in California: the state's exploding population and demand for electricity, then-governor Pete Wilson's stated desire to overhaul California's power sector, and the maturation of clean and efficient combined-cycle power generation technology. "All the elements wer in place: a staggering demand for power, a highly eficient anbd environmentally friendly technology, the advent of a receptive regulatory/permitting structure, and one of California's most pro-business commuities." Johns says. "Now all I needed was half a billion dollars. I know it sounds strange, but people like me actually think like that!"
To gain access to the resources needed and to add stability and credibility to the development process, Johns brought in Constellation energy Group as a partner in 1997.
The High Desert Power Project was named Platts Power Magazine Power Plant of the Year because of the development team’s ability to address California’s strict and complicated permitting demands while soothing local environmental concerns. The Victorville plant was one of more than 100 worldwide nominees for an award industry insiders consider the equivalent of The Oscar.
"Although it is one of the most efficient plants in energy-starved California - it was the Inland Energys development team’s ability to get the plant built that won it the prestigious award", Peltier said. Inland Energy’s Buck Johns and Tom Barnet were the initial impetus that led to the siting and development.
The development team had to figure out ways to import water for cooling, trade air emission credits to meet local Air Quality Management District requirements and build a 32-mile natural gas pipeline. The team also created a partnership with the city to help kick-start the local economy, soothe public concerns and provide stable, inexpensive, environmentally sound power for California.