published on July 13, 2016 - 12:53 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Operations and maintenance improvements have led to a performance turnaround at two Valley biomass power plants.

The Chowchilla II and Merced biomass power plants have each achieved an average 20 percent increase in power production capacity and reliability over the past nine months, plant operators reported Wednesday.

 The levels of availability and net megawatt production at both plants are now collectively at nearly 90 percent — all time highs for the two facilities.  

The increased energy output and reliability are the result of maintenance work recommended and implemented by IHI Power Services, and equipment investments made during maintenance outages completed last fall.  

IHI was awarded contracts to operate the plants in September 2015 as part of an effort to improve overall results at the plants.

“We needed a few months of performance to ensure that the nominal capital investments we made and the work done by IHI were going to safely achieve the production enhancements we knew these plants were capable of,” said David Kandolha, managing director of Akeida Capital Management. “The work and investment during the fall outage has completely turned around the production levels of both facilities.  Having a skilled and professional operator like IHI has made all the difference.”

Akeida Capital Management LLC, a NY-based investment firm, manages a portfolio of renewable energy and energy efficiency investments in New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Texas and California.  

The Chowchilla and Merced plants are both operated by IHI Power Services, Inc., an operations, maintenance, management, and power plant support services firm headquartered in Aliso Viejo.

Prior to the acquisition by Akeida, the Chowchilla and Merced power plants had faced deferred maintenance issues, resulting in performance declines that eventually caused the plants to be removed from service.

“Assets like these biomass plants are key to California meeting its renewable energy commitments,” noted Steve Gross, president and CEO of IHI Power Services. “With strong ownership like Akeida has provided, and the quality workforce of our maintenance and operations technicians, we can continue to ensure plants like these safely generate energy and help meet California’s demand while reducing carbon emissions.”

Both the Chowchilla and Merced biomass facilities are 12.5-megawatt biomass power plants, which utilize wood fuel from forest management operations such as pre-commercial thinning or dead tree removal, as well as urban construction and demolition wood, and agricultural products such as nutshells and orchard prunings for fuel.

Energy generated by both facilities is sold under long-term power purchase agreements to Pacific Gas & Electric.

Classified as renewable energy generators, biomass power plants such as Chowchilla and Merced help California meets its committed to provide 33 percent of its electricity by 2020 from qualifying renewable resources such as biomass, wind, solar, geothermal and small hydroelectric facilities.

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