Grand River Dam Authority renames coal plant, mulls coal unit fate

The Grand River Dam Authority said Feb. 25 that it has decided to rename one of its facilities that has been generating low-cost, reliable electricity for Oklahomans since the early 1980s.

Formerly known as the GRDA Coal Fired Complex (CFC), the site will now be called the Grand River Energy Center, home to both GRDA’s coal-fired generation and, by 2017, a new combined cycle gas unit with the potential to be the most efficient in the entire country. GRDA unveiled the new name, and the facility’s new logo, at its Feb. 12 board meeting.

“We felt the new name would better reflect both the importance of this site and its expanded mission,” said GRDA Chief Executive Officer/Director of Investments Dan Sullivan.

The CFC has been GRDA’s main source of electricity production since both units (GRDA Units 1 and 2) began commercial operations in the early 1980s. Construction of the new gas unit (GRDA Unit 3) will serve to bolster the site’s importance as GRDA’s primary generator, while also adding fuel diversity.

Due to new regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, GRDA is also moving forward with plans to retrofit emissions controls on GRDA Unit 2 to ready it for reliable production in the years ahead. A final decision on Unit 1 – possibly a decommissioning or conversion to gas – is still pending.

The new Unit 3 will be a combined cycle facility with the capability to efficiently produce 495 MW. Total costs for the entire Unit 3 are estimated to be $372m. GRDA arrived at this decision, and these numbers, after much research and evaluation, as well as assistance from the Black & Veatch engineering firm. Contracts for the turbine-generators were awarded to Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas.

“Part of the GRDA Board’s strategy has been to reduce our reliance on coal,” said Sullivan. “We can achieve some of that with this new facility. By burning natural gas from right here in Oklahoma, we will have a diversified generation portfolio that will continue to keep costs low for our customers.”

That diversified portfolio already includes coal, gas, water and wind resources. Unit 3’s construction and GRDA’s goal to expand its wind generation are important components in efforts to meet customer needs reliably and economically for many years to come.

The GenerationHub database shows GRDA’s coal-fired Unit 1 with 490 MW of net summer capacity and that it went on-line in 1981. Unit 2 is shown with 520 MW of net summer capacity and it went on-line in 1985. U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows the plant getting coal in 2013 from the Rawhide mine in Wyoming under a contract with Peabody Coal Sales that is due to expire at the end of 2020.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility.

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.