By Mélissa Yu
On May 27, 2021, a steam turbine generator exploded at the Russell City Energy Center gas-fired power plant in Hayward. This explosion caused shrapnel and metal debris to be launched into the surrounding area, severely damaging nearby buildings.. Many parts landed at the Hayward sewage treatment plant, and at least one part crashed on the roof of a homeless navigation center. In total, the explosion caused damage estimated at $ 100 million.
Despite the fact that the steam turbine generator was not repaired, the Russell City Energy Center applied for a special permit to resume operations. Without the steam turbine damaged in the explosion, the power plant will operate at a lower efficiency, producing a similar amount of pollution and greenhouse gases while generating only a fraction of the electricity. Thus, in order to comply with Air District emissions rules, the plant has requested a relaxation of its permit. Disturbingly, the plant has has already resumed its activities even before benefiting from the emissions exemption.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) is the agency with the power to decide whether or not to modify the plant’s permit. If the BAAQMD board of directors refuses to modify the permit, the plant will have to cease operations until its steam turbine is repaired. Members of the public have until August 30 to submit written comments about this question. Please send a message urging the board of directors of BAAQMD to immediately shut down this low-efficiency plant and deny their operating request until they repair their steam turbine generator and can meet their authorized greenhouse gas emission limit.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just pointed out in terrifying detail, climate change is upon us and Californians are feeling the effects day after day. Granting a greenhouse gas efficiency exemption in this climate would be unreasonable.
In addition, the Russell City Energy Center has operated for years at a capacity well below its full potential (see graph below). As the plant is used at a lower capacity utilization, its efficiency also decreases. In the first half of 2020, the plant’s efficiency was only 43% – very low compared to the efficiency of 50-60% of similar plants. Lower efficiency increases the amount of fuel, the cost of fuel and the amount of pollutants emitted per megawatt hour of electricity produced.
In addition to greenhouse gases that warm the climate, the power station creates emissions harmful to human health, including nitrogen oxides triggering asthma. The town of Hayward is already disproportionately affected by pollution. This facility is a danger to our community, our health and our climate future.
The town of Hayward announced its opposition in June at the request of the Russell City Energy Center: “Given what has happened, we believe it would be premature to do a restart until we understand the root cause of the turbine failure and if the facilities in place to contain the explosion functioned as intended, ”said Mayor Barbara Vacations. She added, “It is also essential that we understand the potential environmental and health impacts of Calpine’s proposal to resume operations of the plant for our community. “
BAAQMD must remain true to his mission to “create a healthy respiratory environment for every resident of the Bay Area”. Please send your message ask the board of directors to stop the dangerous operations of the Russell City Energy Center.
Photo Credit: Hayward Power Plant by ‘Pussreboots’ via Flickr Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).