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How Pasadena's new gas turbine keeps your air conditioner running during heat waves




As electricity use surged last week, a series of gas turbines at the upgraded Glenarm Power Plant kept lights on and air conditioners running in Pasadena.

Four of Glenarm’s gas turbines — including the newly finished GT-5 Unit — ran at full capacity Monday through Friday during last week’s heat wave, providing more than half of the electricity needs for the city of 142,000 residents, according to Margie Otto, a spokeswoman for Pasadena Water and Power.

“It put us in a good position,” Otto said. Otherwise, “we probably would have been in jeopardy for some rolling blackouts.”

Last week was the longest the plant has needed to operate since GT-5 came online in December. The local power plant lessens Pasadena’s reliance on the outside sources for energy, and acts as a back-up generator in situations that could cause outages.

Glenarm also fed back into the regional grid to support the strain experienced statewide. California’s peak demand on Sept. 1 nearly passed a record of 50,270 megawatts set in 2006, according the California Independent System Operator, or CAISO.

The state grid operator issued two Flex Alerts last week asking consumers to turn off unnecessary lights and major appliances.

As the temperatures hit 106, the peak demand in Pasadena reached about 314 megawatts, roughly 50 megawatts more than an average 90-degree summer day, Otto said.

The new gas turbine, GT-5, was installed as part of a $132 million repowering project at Glenarm. Lawsuits, heavy rainfall and a larger-than-expected design delayed the project’s completion by years.

GT-5, a more efficient gas turbine that can start supplying power within minutes, replaced an old steam unit that took three days to turn on and needed to stay on for a minimum of three days before the city could shut it off.

Essentially, Pasadena Water and Power had to predict when electricity usage would surge far in advance and wasted energy if the demand didn’t last long enough.

“GT-5 is a significant upgrade to the Glenarm Power Plant, bringing added electric reliability and flexibility to Pasadena,” said Gurcharan Bawa, PWP’s general manager in a memo Thursday. “This upgrade allows PWP to provide support for the regional power grid and to accommodate the electricity shortfall that may occur during times of high energy consumption.”


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That doesn’t mean you should crank up the A.C. though. Conservation is still needed, especially during Flex Alert days, to keep from overloading the grid, Bawa said. While Glenarm can help, it can’t power all of Pasadena by itself on a hot summer day.

PWP offers a list of energy saving tips on its website.



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