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Decommissioning the downtown power plant: When can it be done?   

by  John Romero, Energy Acquisition Engineering and Planning general manager  on  7/19/2017

Martin Drake Power PlantThe Martin Drake Power Plant is a great resource for us – providing reliable, low-cost power for our community – for almost a century. As renewable energy and new technologies have evolved in the electric industry, so too have the perceptions and values of our customers. We understand this.

In 2016, through our Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP), the Utilities Board set a decommissioning date for the Drake Power Plant no later than 2035. The EIRP process required a tremendous amount of research, planning, forecasting and public input. The result was a long-term plan designed to meet our future energy demands, focusing on the delivery of safe, reliable power that is respectful of the environment while minimizing costs to our customers.

Fast forward a year. Leadership on our Utilities Board has changed and the discussion to accelerate the decommissioning of the power plant has evolved.

Between now and the end of the year, we will be evaluating a number of decommissioning options for the plant. Under the direction from our Strategic Planning Committee, comprised of a few members of the Utilities Board, we will present decommissioning scenarios to the full Utilities Board throughout the year, with final scenarios presented in December for evaluation. These scenarios will take into consideration items like rate impacts, utility uses for the site and downtown revitalization plans.

The best part of this process is that you will have a chance to make your voice heard. As a municipal utility, we want to hear what you think about decommissioning the plant. We encourage our customers to participate in the process – attend a Utilities Board meeting, call us and follow us Facebook and Twitter for the latest news.

Determining a decommissioning date for the power plant is just the beginning – we can’t just flip a switch and turn it off. The Drake Power Plant provides about one-quarter of our power needs and we will need to replace this resource with something else.

We will be very mindful and vigilant as to when and how we decommission the plant and determining the resources that replace it. After all, this decision will impact all of us.


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The sooner the better. Coal fired plants are of the past and no longer economically or environmentally viable, especially when taken into account indirect but real costs of the community which the publicly owned utility serves not just its own interests. Decommission, dismantle and turn the property into a solar farm using existing grid infrastructure and do the same for the plant on No Nevada.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017  3:51 PM  Robert Nemanich

Turn the property into a solar farm?? So how would you generate the other 225 mw of power? The sooner the better does not take into consideration the enormous cost that will be passed along to customers. There's a reason for no later than 2035, costs have to be gradual and time given for technology to improve, not to mention time to replace that significant amount of generated power and re-configure the grid.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017  6:45 PM  Hector

I would like to know how much it will cost to reconstruct the existing transmission and distribution system to accommodate new supply alternatives. Seems to me the existing systems have been constructed to distribute power from the existing power plant location. By eliminating the Drake plant and setting up a new power source at a different location, new systems would have to be constructed and existing systems would have to reconstructed to handle the changes. Sounds like an expensive venture, not to mention higher rates for other sources of power

Monday, July 24, 2017  5:46 PM  Dave Deutsch

Is this from the Obama disastrous presidency and the HIS EPA gestapo that are still working to turn our nation into an environment disaster that will increase our utility 3 FOLD in the coming years? Leave the power plant alone! Coal power is 100% reliable 365 days and nights a year and keeps our utilities very low.

Thursday, August 10, 2017  2:39 PM  An informed American

I hope we can get it done well in advance of 2035. Waiting will only mean we will pay more for the alternative programs, and in the meantime we continue to impact the future of our children and their children negatively. My values remind me that it is not all about me. I am sure it will not be simple. But as curious and creative creatures, we can find the best way to transform the system that delivers our energy needs. Just ask our children.

Thursday, August 10, 2017  3:58 PM  Paula Stecker

Ok Robert Nemanich, let’s see what turning Drake Power Plant into a solar or wind farm would look like.
Lets do some basic napkin math...

How many solar panels would be required to fill the load of Drake Power Plant?
1 Solar Panel = 300 watts of power on average
1 Mega Watt = 1,000,000 Watts
Drake Power Planet Generators ~225.000.000 Watts or 225 Mega Watts
225,000,000w /300w = 750,000 Solar Panels are Required

How much space would be required for these solar panels?
1 Solar Panel = 18 Square Feet in size
1 Acre = 43,560 Square Feet
43,560sqf /18sqf = 2420 Solar Panels Per Acre
750,000 Solar Panels /2420 Solar Panels Per Acre = ~310 Acres are need for Solar Panels

Can we fit all these Solar Panels on Drake Power Plants current location?
1 Acre = 43,560 Square Feet
Drake Power Plant roughly Sits on, ~2,000,000 Square Feet
2,000,000sqf /43,560sqf = ~46 Acres
310 Acres or 13,503,600sqft are required, we are short 264 Acres or 11,503,600sqft

What about sun light?
Colorado Springs on average see 5.5 hours of full sun light a day.
In order to see a full 24 hours of generation we need to multiply the needed solar panels and land by 4.36
3,270,000 Solar Panels to generator 225 Mega Watts in a 24 hour period
1352 Acres or 2.11 Square Miles are required Space of solar panels, basically all of downtown Colorado Springs and then some…
Not including space for batteries and power distribution

Let’s see about Wind Turbines, how many do we need?
On average a single wind turbine generates 2 Mega Watts of Power
Drake Power Planet Generators 225 Mega Watts
225mw /2mw = 113 Wind Turbines are required to fill the current power load.

How much space does 113 Wind Turbines take up?
“The National Renewable Energy Laboratory researchers found a rough average of 4 megawatts per square kilometer (about 10 megawatts per square mile)”
225mw /10mw per Sq. Mile = 22.5 Sq. Miles of Wind Turbines
Boulder CO is 25.85sq Miles

Thursday, August 10, 2017  4:28 PM  Steve Chapin

How do I find out who is on the board and who elected them? I as a customer have not seen a ballot that I can remember?

Thursday, August 10, 2017  7:10 PM  Robert Hartley

Sincerely appreciate the "napkin math" by Steve Chapin. Suspect the CSU estimates may be in the same ball park. All seem to agree careful planning is important (I do). Second, a savings strategy ought to be crafted. Some will favor a tariff on the utility rates; some may prefer an energy surplus savings (market savings) strategy; and I suppose the more aggressive crowd would entertain investing their own funds into bonds. In the end, it could be a portfolio strategy.

Thursday, August 10, 2017  7:54 PM  Kurt

We are just finishing a very costly expense to clean
the plants discharge, if we decommission much before
2035 we would not get much benefit from the clean up.

Thursday, August 10, 2017  8:49 PM  Otis Moreland

I have no interest at all in paying exorbitant electric rates to be "politically correct" or "green". I am, however, very interested in what levels of particulates and sulfur dioxide the existing plant puts out, and if it can be retrofitted with the appropriate stack gas emissions control technology. I have two degrees in mechanical engineering, and have been in the energy business for decades. Having a coal fired power plant does not bother me at all. Having it downtown is an entirely different matter. A coal power plant belongs way out in the countryside, not in a neighborhood. It was built in a time when the appropriate emissions control technology was not widely employed, and it should never have been built near downtown. We now need to figure out how to go forward. I am willing to be educated on the options, but another 18 years of sulfur and particulate emissions downtown does not seem to be reasonable.

Thursday, August 10, 2017  8:52 PM  Patrick McGuire

Otis Moreland = I know people in the power industry and through discussions with them I have tried to educate myself on how the local plant operates. Part of this curiousity I looked for and found hourly EPA data that shows the scrubbers are Drake work pretty darn well . I saw periods of a couple months at 0.02 pounds per million Btu. Last I heard the permit for Drake was 0.13. Similarly, the permit for particles is 0.03 pounds per million Btu. I know someone who had requested to see the utilitys stack reports and the results were ten times below the limit. People complain thay it is an old plant, but from my limited knowledge, it seems to be running very well.

Friday, August 11, 2017  9:04 AM  Michelle

Otis Moreland = I know people in the power industry and through discussions with them I have tried to educate myself on how the local plant operates. Part of this curiousity I looked for and found hourly EPA data that shows the scrubbers are Drake work pretty darn well . I saw periods of a couple months at 0.02 pounds per million Btu. Last I heard the permit for Drake was 0.13. Similarly, the permit for particles is 0.03 pounds per million Btu. I know someone who had requested to see the utilitys stack reports and the results were ten times below the limit. People complain thay it is an old plant, but from my limited knowledge, it seems to be running very well.

Friday, August 11, 2017  9:06 AM  Michelle

I would rather see a press release about building a new power plant than these nebulous plans to eventually decommission an existing one.

Seriously, decommissioning the old plants should be a footnote to an article about opening new plants. Stop wasting money on "green" energy and take advantage of cheap coal power to spend more on advanced nuclear power technology and research.

Friday, August 11, 2017  12:40 PM 

What's the hurry? Scrubbers were installed to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions. Why not get some use out of them. The old plan allows plenty of time to build a new power plant. I vote for keeping the original 2035 decommissioning date.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017  3:05 PM  RB