Colorado Springs looks at retirement of Drake coal plant

A special task force of Colorado Springs, Colo., looking at the retirement in 15 years of the coal-fired Martin Drake power plant held its initial meeting on Jan. 25 and is due for its next meeting on Feb. 8.

The task force is expected to meet several more times and present its findings later this year to the Colorado Springs City Council and Colorado Springs Utilities.

At its Jan. 22 meeting, the City Council confirmed the appointment of nine citizens to serve on the task force. Utilities Board members Brandy Williams and Lisa Czelatdko are representing the board and leading the study task force. The task force, facilitated by Navigant Consulting, will develop the scope of work for a study on plant retirement. That scope of work will be used to solicit proposals from firms pre-qualified through a Statement of Qualifications process.

Colorado Springs Utilities on Jan. 25 issued a request for a Statement of Qualifications, which seeks a qualified contractor to perform a study of the impacts to the Colorado Springs community of the decommissioning, removal and possibly repurposing of the site for the Martin Drake plant. The study will be focused on determining the impacts and energy replacement options for a 15 year retirement of the Drake plant, while also analyzing earlier and later retirement dates. Interested contractors need to respond to this request by Feb. 8.

The impacts to be included in the study would be the benefits to the City of Colorado Springs if the Drake plant is decommissioned versus the benefits of keeping the plant in operation. Possible benefits of decommissioning may include additional businesses being attracted to the city and the associated additional jobs, increased tax revenues, etc. Possible benefits of keeping the plant operational may include avoidance of decommissioning costs, lower utility rates, jobs generated by the Drake plant, etc. The Colorado Springs Utilities Board has requested that this study be completed in 2013.

Martin Drake has three units with a combined capacity of 254 MW. Previously a seven-unit facility, Martin Drake now houses three coal-fired boilers:

  • Unit 5, 46 MW (net), online in 1962;
  • Unit 6, 77 MW (net), online in 1968; and
  • Unit 7, 131 MW (net), online in 1974.

All three units are capable of using either coal or natural gas to generate electricity. In 2011, the Drake units were available 92% of the time while the industry average was 84%. Baghouses collect more than 99.8% of fly ash. In 1999, low NOx burners were installed on Units 5 and 6, with Unit 7 installation occurring in the following year. This allowed the Drake plant to reduce its NOx emissions by 55% to 65%. Additional NOx controls will be installed by 2017 to achieve further reductions. Drake uses very low-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. To comply with Regional Haze Rules, Colorado Springs Utilities will begin installation of additional emissions control equipment at Drake in 2013, the CSU website said.

Also, the Colorado Springs Utilities Policy Advisory Committee (UPAC) is studying the implications of selling or leasing Colorado Springs’ power plants, and its transmission and/or distribution systems. The study, assigned to UPAC by the Utilities Board in August 2012, is expected to be completed in 2013. The CSU website said a request for proposal for the project manager consultant was issued on Nov. 29, 2012, with a deadline of Jan. 8. UPAC is now evaluating those RFP responses.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.