General Electric has announced that it will close one of its massive natural gas power plants in California by the end of the year. The decision was made despite the fact that the plant has roughly 20 years of remaining useful life and could conceivably operate safely during that time. Deeming the plant too “uneconomical to support further,” GE has stated that it would like to focus more on renewable energies such as wind and solar. GE noted that the plant has been operating below capacity for several years now, and that the technologies currently being used at the plant are outdated.

Located in Sun Valley, CA, the Inland Empire Energy Center first began production in 2003 for a cost of roughly $500 million.  The 800MW natural gas-fired plant sits on 46 acres in Riverside County, CA and employs approximately 500 full-time employees. The plant currently utilizes H-System turbines to provide electricity to over 600 thousand homes in Southern California. At the time of their development, the H-System turbines were the most fuel efficient combined-cycle gas turbines (ccgt) to be produced, but recent developments in the industry have made the H-System turbines a legacy technology.

California is hands-down the most ambitious state of the union when it comes to green energy. The California Energy Commission has stated that the goal of the state is to generate 50% of its electricity needs from renewable energies by 2025 and 100% of its electricity from non-carbon sources by 2045. A recent report revealed that California is currently contributing so much solar power to the electrical grid, that there is a surplus at times and starting next year, all new homes in the state must be built with solar panels. In addition to the lower costs for renewable energies seen in recent years, the goals and regulations imposed by the state have made it uncomfortable for companies who use fossil fuels to generate electricity. The plant’s closure comes on the heels of a recent analysis from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) which noted that GE has lost an estimated $200 billion for failing to adjust to changing global energy trends. GE plans on selling the project site to Nova Power, who plans on developing a battery energy storage facility that will harness solar energy for distribution into nearby homes and businesses.

As the old adage says, “as California goes, so goes the country.” Could the closure of this plant dependent on fossil fuels be a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the state and the country? Will this scenario continue to play out across the country as consumer demands for clean energy increase and costs for renewable energies decrease? At a glance, it would seem like the closure of the Inland Empire Energy Center is a sign that the clean energy transition process is progressing nicely. Old and dirty technologies are being phased out and new clean technologies are popping up to take their place. At the very least the story of the Inland Empire Energy Center will serve as a lesson to GE and other massive corporations still betting on fossil fuels that they will have to adapt to changing times.

(Pictured Above: The Inland Empire Energy Center)

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The Inland Empire Energy Center during construction

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