SAN JOSE, CA-Just how severe is the power shortage in ultra-wired Silicon Valley? Is it bad enough to necessitate building the Calpine Corp.’s hotly debated 600-megawatt Metcalf Energy Center? The San Jose City Council will tackling those questions and others Tuesday night before voting on the proposed plant.

Neighbors and other critics say the facility, slated for the North Coyote Valley area on the southern edge of the city is unnecessary and would be out-of-place with the light-industrial uses planned for the currently rural area the city has eying for expansion of its industrial land for many years now. Calpine and its supporters argue that last summer’s outages and brownouts will continue and worsen if the plant is not built. Calpine says the San Jose area is expected to consume a radically increased amount of power by 2002, which is when the proposed plant would be ready for operation.

Calpine’s two biggest obstacles seem to be Cisco Systems and San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales. Cisco, which is building its own controversial Coyote Valley Research Park in the area, says that the energy center is incongruent with Coyote Valley’s planned office-park nature. And Gonzales – a major backer of Cisco, San Jose’s biggest employer – has spoken openly against the project for similar reasons.

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