A recent letter to the editor focused on a new infrastructure project called the Quail Brush Generation Project, which is being proposed on private property in the city of San Diego directly off Sycamore Landfill Road. CleanTECH San Diego would like to take this opportunity to shed some light on some aspects of the project that were overlooked and the overall renewable energy landscape in the San Diego region.

CleanTECH San Diego is dedicated to making the San Diego region a nationally recognized leader in environmental and economic sustainability — while supporting the creation of cleantech companies and jobs. A significant element of achieving that goal is to maximize our region’s energy efficiency efforts and the development of renewable power generation assets — specifically solar and wind. So why would our organization support a natural gas-fired peaker plant?

Through our work we have learned that while there is strong regional support for renewable power, the overriding requirement is to have a system that can reliably meet the region’s aggregate power not just daily, but hourly without any interruptions. Stable, reliable energy is absolutely critical to ensuring our region’s economic prosperity and overall quality of life. While a combination of energy efficiency efforts and the greater adoption of ever-improving renewable power technologies can and will significantly reduce the region’s need for fossil fuel-generated power, the fact is that for the foreseeable future the variable nature of renewable electricity production will require on-demand systems to equalize power supply at peak periods. In fact, it will be impossible to maximize our region’s renewable energy potential unless there are facilities like Quail Brush to quickly come online when the wind dies or the clouds roll in.

Given the realities of intermittency and the need to back up renewables with on-demand systems, natural gas presents one of the cleanest ways to fill in the gaps. With its highly efficient quick-start technology, Quail Brush can come online within 10 minutes. That flexible response time is an increasingly important consideration, especially as we make our way toward meeting California’s 33 percent renewable energy mandate with a diverse mix of energy sources.

With a clear understanding of the reliability issue, it’s easy to see the need for a Quail Brush-type facility. Through the California Energy Commission, a process is in place to evaluate projects such as Quail Brush. In order to initiate this process, the city needs to work with the California Energy Commission and fully participate and engage in the environmental review process. To ensure the city’s full participation, the Community Plan Amendment process must begin. I urge the Planning Commission to initiate this process on July 19.

Jim Waring is the president and CEO of CleanTECH San Diego.

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Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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