As we integrate more solar energy into our grid in the coming years, some may ask, “How is power generated on cloudy days? Will the community lose power?”
To ensure power quality and reliability, our grid operators work tirelessly so that our power system works as a whole.
When power generation fluctuates from renewable sources, like solar, we are fortunate to have a resource we can depend on. It’s called the Front Range Power Plant.
There are many reasons why this plant is an important asset for our customers now, and will becoming increasingly more important as we add renewable energy to our portfolio. Front Range Power Plant is:
Front Range can be ramped up to maximum output and then turned back off within a few hours. For example, if we have 100 megawatts of solar but clouds roll in causing us to quickly lose 50 of those megawatts, this plant can make that up in less than 5 minutes. This plant can react quickly whether we need more or less generation.
Because of automation and the combustion turbines at this plant, it also requires less staff to operate. Front Range only has about 20 employees. Gas flows through lines and valves directly into the jet-engine-like turbines, which can be ramped up or turned off quickly. Think of them like the engines you see on large planes. (See photos below).
Condensing of steam is managed by an air-cooled condenser that requires far less water consumption in comparison to a traditional wet cooling tower.
2018 was a record-breaking year for the plant. We generated over 2.5 million megawatt hours of energy throughout the year. On November 11, 2018 we broke the all-time record for generation in one day: 11,315 megawatt hours.
To the left, you can see our energy generation mix for 2018. Natural gas surpassed all other generation sources, thanks to this plant.
When we produce energy and customers don’t need it, we sell it on the market and make a profit, which in turn keeps rates lower for our customers. As gas prices continue to stay low, Front Range is one of our “cheapest” energy producers.
The cost to run this plant is very low when considering the price of natural gas and the megawatts of energy we produce with it – a lot for a little. It can generate more power than Nixon and Drake power plants and our hydro power plants combined.
Relying more on Front Range is beneficial to our customers in almost every way. It helps us meet many of our customers' diverse needs when it comes to flexibility, efficiency, reliability, cost and environmental stewardship. Book a tour if you are interested in visiting this plant.