It was opposed by city leaders yet approved by the state coastal commission, and with the latter group’s go-ahead last week, officials from a regional energy company are moving ahead with provisions to construct a peaker plant — a smaller power plant used as a back-up if a regular power plant should temporarily fail — along the Oxnard coastline by next summer.

With an 80-foot height, the gas-powered, 45-megawatt facility will be located just south of another power plant, Reliant Mandalay, its target completion date projected for summer 2010, according to Mark Nelson, director of the project for Southern California Edison. It’s designed, he said, to be interconnected to the coastal energy grid in the event of region-wide blackouts with the ability to “black-start” from a zero power level.

“On a typical day it would be used locally,” Nelson said. “In the event of a large system disruption, the plant black-starts itself and then it starts Reliant Mandalay, and that starts Reliant Ormond.

“It’s a very important plant from a reliability perspective,” he continued. “That’s the impetus for it.”

When the peaker plant is open and operating, there will be strict air emission guidelines enforced by the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District (APCD).

“For this unit, we’re looking to control nitrogen oxides, which are a precursor to smog,” says APCD air pollution control officer Mike Villegas.

According to Villegas, when the peaker plant is up and running, the maximum amount of nitrogen oxide emissions the APCD will permit is up to 4.99 tons per year, comparable to the annual emissions of a hospital boiler room.

It will also be allowed, he said, up to 1.25 tons per year of reactive organic compounds, just less than the output of a typical gas station.

Air pollution officials, Villegas noted, must also verify that the peaker plant is equipped with certain pollution mitigation features — catalytic devices, for example, used to reduce carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and other gases.

The APCD, he also said, will begin issuing permits for those devices after the California Coastal Commission, whose members voted 7-4 in approval of the project this month, issue their own land permits that allow construction of the plant.

Villegas could not comment on an exact date the permits would be issued.

The Coastal Commission’s vote to erect the peaker plant was contrary to the stance of Oxnard leaders who initially opposed the project, citing a need to protect the county coastline from further industrial growth.

Oxnard City Manager Ed Sotelo said an appeal from the city council could be a possibility sometime this year.

“It’ll be under consideration,” he said.   

paul@vcreporter.com