Ten months after the May 5, 2014 fire at the Martin Drake Power Plant, Unit 5 was restarted.
Unit 5 (46 megawatts) is the smallest, and last, of the three units damaged in the fire to be restored. Unit 6 (77 megawatts) returned to service just nine weeks following the fire and Unit 7 (131 megawatts) was operational in 16 weeks, bringing the plant back to 80 percent of its capacity. The start-up of Unit 5 strengthens our generating portfolio and grid.
An increase to the Electric Cost Adjustment (ECA) rate was approved following the fire to cover additional fuel costs while Drake was completely out of service. However, as promised, decreases to the ECA were approved after each unit was brought back online. It is no different with this unit. City Council approved an ECA decrease of $0.72 to the typical residential bill that went into effect May 1.
Drake is now back to producing one-third of our community's energy needs.
This feat was accomplished ahead of schedule because of the hard work and dedication of all our employees supporting the recovery and restoration efforts.
The energy produced at Drake is critical to sustain quality of life and economic development in our community. Before this event, the plant has had an industry-leading track record of reliability and safety.
In June, City Council approved an Electric Cost Adjustment (ECA) rate increase to cover the additional $3 million a month in fuel costs while Drake was completely out of service. This additional fuel cost is attributed to the fact that natural gas is almost twice as much as coal, and we are mostly relying on our natural-gas fired power without Drake online.
As unit 6 and 7 came online, reductions were made to the ECA. The typical residential electric bill was reduced by $1.68 in July and another $4.02 in September resulting in a lower bill than before the fire.
The ECA rate increase was not designed for and was not needed to cover the cost to repair Drake. We have an adequate insurance policy - up to $500 million per occurrence - to get the plant generating power once again. However, this policy does not cover the cost of replacement power. Those types of plans typically do no kick-in until much after an incident (six months or more) and are not cost effective in the long run. With this instance, our goal of getting 80 percent of the power from this facility back online is less than the time in which replacement power insurance would have even commenced.
Fire summary and investigation
The fire started on May 5, 2014, at approximately 9:40 a.m. and was declared under control at 12:42 p.m. All of our employees were safely evacuated, and there were no major injuries. As a precaution, a five block radius around the plant was also evacuated for about four hours. The Colorado Springs Fire Department released control of the plant back to us on Thursday, May 9.
As a result of the fire, more than 22,000 customers were without power for 35 to 40 minutes until restoration was complete.
According to the Colorado Springs Fire Department:
"The initial phase of the investigation has determined the fire to be accidental as a result of free flowing lubricating oil coming in contact with high temperature steam pipes which resulted in the flash fire. The fire was fed by the free flowing lubricating oil which increased the fire’s size and severity until fire department crews arrived and were able to suppress the fire. The investigation will be ongoing and may take several weeks to determine all the factors surrounding the cause of the fire. More information will be provided once the investigation is complete."
Read the entire news release at springsgov.com.
Preliminary Fire Department report
Based on the information collected during the origin and cause investigation, the fire was determined to be accidental and caused by human error.
The employee involved is currently on administrative leave pending further notice. We will continue to evaluate the situation and determine the appropriate next steps.
We appreciates the fire department’s expertise in this matter. We will use this and other information about the accident to help make improvements at our facilities, in an effort to help prevent this type of fire from occurring again.
Typically, we generate 80 to 90 percent of our community's power needs at our locally owned and operated generation facilities. Drake produces approximately one-third of our community's electricity. At this time, we are able to meet the electric demands of our community. This is being accomplished two ways:
- Coal and hydroelectric sources generally provide the lowest cost power. The following power plants are currently being used: Nixon Power Plant, Front Range Power Plant, Tesla Hydro Power Plant, Manitou Hydro Power Plant and Cascade Hydro Power Plant. See chart below for more information.
- We have two long-term purchase power agreements and, as needed, we purchase power in the energy market. We also buy power when the cost advantage outweighs the price of producing power locally.
|Drake (three units)
||Coal or natural gas
||Downtown Colorado Springs|
|Nixon 2 and 3
Birdsall (Three units)
||Natural gas or oil
||North Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs|
Local hydro (Four plants)
||Colorado Springs, as well as Manitou Springs, Colo., and Cascade, Colo.|