GE closes California natural gas plant

I recently took a trip back to my alma mater in Columbia, Missouri. Every time I make the drive, I always find myself in awe of the fields of wind farms I pass as I head south from the Chicagoland area. This time, like every other, I found myself wondering how much energy they’re actually producing on those farms and if it’s really making a difference.

Apparently, wind farms like those, along with other renewables like solar, are gaining, especially in California. According to a recent Reuters report, General Electric Co. (GE) announced that it’s going to demolish a 750-megawatt natural-gas-fired powerplant only 10 years into its 30-year lifetime as a result of the growing use of wind and solar energy in the state’s grid.

The Inland Empire Energy Center uses two of GE’s H-Class, according to the Reuters article. GE sites California’s growing use of renewable energy in its grid, which results in a need for fast-start capabilities that these H turbines cannot satisfy and has become uneconomical for the company to support, Reuters reports.

“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 in a statement to Reuters.

In fact, Reuters found in GE’s California Energy Commission filing that the plant’s output was cut to about 376 megawatts in 2017.

The site will be sold to a company producing battery storage, which has experienced increased demand due to the need in wind and solar power production, Reuters reports.

Although this trend might be expected in a state like California, the move toward renewable energy is growing throughout the country. In fact, the Energy Information Agency recently released a report that in April, renewable electricity beat out coal-fired electricity on a national scale for the first time, with coal-fired contributing 20% compared to renewable energy’s 23%.

Although the EIA doesn’t think this is likely to happen again any time soon, it does show that change is in the air as coal-fired electricity has decreased share over the past decade. This along with GE’s announcement, to me, shows that renewables are here to stay. And as a millennial, I’m glad we’re producing energy from a variety of resources.