Power plants have historically generated a considerable amount of jobs for IBEW Local 11 members, so when the future of the Glendale Grayson Power Plant was decided by City Council members in July, the stakes were high for union workers. The power plant with its various facilities built between 1941 and 1977 had become outdated, putting residents at the risk of blackouts and threatening the shutdown of the plant itself, so plans emerged to replace obsolete components.
“I worked on the Magnolia Power Plant, which is similar to Grayson,” said Tommy Faavae, Local 11 organizer. “These types of projects provide a lot of jobs on the industry side. Over 300 of our electricians worked at Magnolia. We also had 150 Local 11 electricians work on a battery energy storage project in Pomona. This project is not as big but will still create really good jobs for our members.”
Twenty Local 11 members attended the City Council meeting on July 23 to show their support for the project’s approval, alongside 50 other building trades unionists who were in attendance. The strong turnout was the direct result of coordinated organizing efforts on the part of Local 11’s leadership who understand the necessity of continually paving pathways for good construction jobs for members. Though the work won’t start for another year or two, the timing could coincide with a construction downturn and be a crucial work opportunity for members.
A plan had been hatched to build a new natural gas plant with a capacity of 262 megawatts, but several environmental groups fought back against it due to concern about carbon emissions that exacerbate climate change. This was coupled with the awareness of a state law passed last year that mandates California’s grid to be sourced by 100 percent renewables by 2045. A new plan then emerged with a gas generation portion of 93 megawatts combined with 50 megawatts of battery storage fueled by wind and solar. Environmentalists still balked at this but are hoping that new technologies will come online in the near future to increase the reliability of a 100 percent renewables plant.
Glendale Water & Power managers have stated that given current technological capabilities, the plant doesn’t have enough land to develop a solar-based utility with sufficient capacity and battery storage to deliver reliable energy to Glendale. Council members who approved the hybrid gas and renewables project were concerned about blackouts resulting from fluctuations from an all-renewables plant.
The project will replace existing gas turbines with a combination of wind, solar power and battery storage along with five internal combustion natural gas systems. The gas systems will be more efficient and burn less natural gas to produce the same amount of energy, so the project will result in reduced carbon emissions.
“IBEW is all about creating jobs and not displacing workers,” said Faavae. “The takeaway from this experience is that even though there are disagreements, technology will keep evolving, and government officials need to stay on top of these changes so that we can transition our energy system in a way that’s beneficial for the entire community.”