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Ventura County power plant shares blame for Flex Alert

August 9, 2012 |  6:12 pm

This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.

An unexpected outage at a power plant in Ventura County was partially responsible for triggering the Flex Alert issued Thursday to ask Californians to conserve energy during a heat wave expected to last through the weekend.

A generating unit at the Ormond Beach Generating Station, a gas-fired power plant in Ventura County, went offline, removing 775 megawatts of energy from the grid, according to a listing of outages released Thursday afternoon by the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state's grid.

ISO spokeswoman Stephanie McCorkle said only that the plant went offline because of "equipment failure" Wednesday night and could not give an estimate of the length of the outage.

The outage "was definitely a big factor in why we triggered the Flex Alert," she said.

Tony Cordero, a spokesman for plant owner GenOn Energy, said the outage at one of the plant's two generating units was caused by an electrical fire. No one was injured, he said. Cordero could not give an immediate estimate of when the unit would return to service.

It is common for equipment to fail during a heat wave as plants work harder to deal with increased demand. On top of that, other plants are currently filling the gap for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating  Station's 2,200 megawatts of energy. The nuclear plant has been out of service for more than six months because of equipment problems.

The Flex Alert is in effect through Sunday. During that time, consumers are asked to set air conditioning at 78 degrees or higher or turn it off while away from home, turn off unnecessary lights and appliances and restrict use of major appliances to the morning and late evening.

Power companies including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Southern California Edison issued their own appeals for customers to conserve.

Edison said that there were no plans for rolling blackouts, but that customers who had signed up for the company's summer discount plan might have their air conditioners cycled off.

For the record 6:22 p.m., Aug. 9: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the plant owner as Reliant Energy. The facility is now owned by GenOn Energy.

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-- Abby Sewell

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