Morro Bay Power Plant Closes After 58 Years of Service

The Morro Bay Power Plant has officially ceased operations. The plant’s owner, the Houston-based electrical company Dynegy, turned the plant off for the last time Wednesday, closing a facility that has helped to bring electricity to California’s Central Coast for more than half a century. There was no public ceremony marking the closure, but there will be a private commemoration for the plant’s employees, some of whom had worked there for decades.

Dynegy decided to close the plant because it was outdated and inefficient, according to Kathy Sullivan, Dynegy’s Director of Public Relations. Sullivan said the natural-gas-powered, seawater-cooled plant was simply no longer needed “to keep the lights on”. According to The Tribune, the cost to upgrade the plant to meet new environmental regulations may also have played a part in the decision.

The power plant was built on the site of a World War II-era naval training base. Construction began in 1953, and for years the plant’s set of three 450-foot-tall smokestacks have been one of the most recognizable landmarks in Morro Bay besides Morro Rock. While it was once a major power provider for coastal California, plans to upgrade the site in 2000 were scrapped due to opposition from local residents and officials because of the plant’s impact on local sea life. As a result, the plant has only been used intermittently for the past few years, operating only at times when there was a spike in electrical demand.

The plant’s closure could potentially cost the city more than $1 million per year in leases and fees, but the city has about $2.7 million in reserve funds saved away in case of such an outcome, according to The Tribune. As it stands, no decision has been made on what will become of the site. Sullivan told me Dynegy currently plans to keep the site, and is exploring the possibility of building some sort of renewable energy-based power plant in its place. She also told me that there are no plans to demolish the smokestacks at this time, and that Dynegy will work together with Morro Bay’s city government in deciding the site’s future. City officials confirmed that they have been speaking to Dynegy on the matter.

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