DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif., May 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- California's newest power plant, the 800-megawatt CPV Sentinel Energy Project, has begun flowing electricity to the grid three months early, in time for the summer heat. Competitive Power Ventures, Inc. (CPV), GE (NYSE: GE) unit GE Energy Financial Services and Diamond Generating Corporation (DGC) said the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and the California Energy Commission have declared commercial operations while the Chief Building Officer issued a final Certificate of Occupancy for the natural gas-powered plant in Riverside County. The CPV Sentinel Energy Project is located near Desert Hot Springs, amidst wind farms producing 600 megawatts of electricity, five miles northwest of Palm Springs. The project uses the most modern "peaking" power generation technology available, the GE LMS100 aeroderivative gas turbine, to provide electricity to approximately 640,000 homes in Southern California Edison's service territory. Eight units with quick-starting and fast-ramping capability make the project a perfect fit for Coachella Valley residents during the summer days of triple-digit temperatures and peak energy use, while also backing up California's growing solar and wind farms that literally surround the plant. "With California's San Onofre nuclear plant off-line and power reserve margins expected to be tight, it is more important than ever that the CPV Sentinel Energy Project be available to support electric reliability this summer," said John Murphy, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Construction for CPV. "Gemma Power Systems did a fantastic job of working with GE and our team to complete this project ahead of schedule and on budget." Gemma Power Systems California, Inc. was the general contractor overseeing construction of the project, which created over 350 direct and indirect jobs and infused the local economy with approximately $30 million in sales tax. Over 731 thousand construction hours went into building the project. By providing a clear path to commercialize critical infrastructure projects, California leads the way in developing a clean and efficient energy sector. Through payment for emissions offsets, the project has helped fund a wide array of air improvement initiatives in the Coachella Valley. Paid for entirely by CPV Sentinel, the South Coast Air Quality Management District has awarded nearly $53 million for 26 emission-reduction projects, including replacing or cleaning up school district buses, installing air filtration systems in classrooms and assisting local cities with solar panel installations and dust control. The project uses Best Available Control Technology for air emissions and Zero Liquid Discharge for water usage, making it one of the state's most environmentally friendly natural gas-fired power generation facilities. The commencement of Sentinel's operations allows the grid operator to rely less on older and inefficient power generation.