Hayward — A year after a power plant explosion sent debris flying hundreds of feet, the state has given its approval for the plant to return to full capacity starting in June.
The Russell City Energy Center has been operating at reduced capacity since last summer.
It was closed after the May 27, 2021 explosion for about two months, but the state’s energy authority allowed it to resume limited work last summer despite objections from residents and local officials, citing California’s need for backup power during heat waves.
From August 10 to September 23, the center was called 11 times to help meet energy requirements.
When the plant is fully operational, it will be able to produce about 600 megawatts of electricity per hour, which can power 600,000 homes.
Chuck Feeney, Hayward’s public information officer, said a state investigation identified the cause of the explosion and power plant operators made changes to ensure its safety.
Barbara Hallyday, Mayor of Hayward, said at a city council meeting on May 24, referring to the cooperation work of city officials, the California Energy Commission, and Calpine, the Houston company that owns the plant, to come up with measures to ensure there is no future explosion.
I think we may have helped other cities that have power plants. We may have provided an example of how… agencies should work together to fix things when they are [broken]. “
The station’s steam turbine exploded just before midnight on May 27, 2021, setting off a fire at the power plant at 3862 Depot Road near Hayward Beach.
The explosion was so powerful that it threw a 15-pound piece of metal through the roof of an unmanned trailer at the city’s Housing Navigation Center on Whitesell Street and Depot Road, about 1,200 feet away. The center provides transitional shelter for the displaced population.
Another 51-pound piece of metal fell into the city’s water pollution control facility at 3700 Enterprise Ave.
Fortunately, no one was hurt.
“One of the things we can all agree on is the fact that this cannot happen again,” council member Aisha Wahab said at the council meeting.
City employees told the council they feel confident in the progress that Calpine and the state have found the cause of the explosion and are taking steps to ensure the plant is operating more safely.
In addition, the Hayward Fire Department and first responders will conduct emergency drills at the plant to help them better prepare in the event of another explosion.
In January, the California Energy Commission said the explosion was caused by too much water under high pressure and temperatures, along with power plant operators not detecting the problem in time, according to investigators.
A joint team of investigators from the California Energy Commission, the state’s Public Utilities Commission, and independent consultants did another inspection of the power plant to verify the results of the initial inspection.
These investigators recommended 11 things that power plant operators should do to prevent future explosions. Those recommendations included an annual preventive maintenance program and synchronization of plant control system hours. Calpine complies with the recommendations.
Calpine also offered Hayward $150,000 to help purchase the fire department’s hazardous response vehicle. However, this car will cost about a million dollars. Hayward officials have been in talks with power plant operators since the initial offer, and whether the city buys the car will come back to city council.
“We recognize the seriousness of the event and the concern it has caused in the community, and we remain deeply committed to the safety and well-being of the community, our employees, and the facility,” Mike Del Casal, Calpine’s senior vice president of operations, said at a California Energy Commission business meeting on April 26.
The Hayward Fire Department is working with Calpine to schedule a power plant tour for new fire department officers to locate hazardous materials, review the plant’s emergency action plan and identify potential fire/explosive areas. The new agreement requires cooperation from Calpine, so Hayward City Manager Kelly McAdoo wrote in an email that she expects the company to accommodate the fire department’s increased reach.
“The city is pleased with the enhanced partnerships between the Russell City Energy Center and the Hayward Fire Department as it relates to training,” McAdoo wrote. “We are in the process of finalizing an agreement and a more formal plan that will define the specific activities that will occur on a regular basis.”
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