The Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) in Alaska said May 28 that it has fired the boiler at the Healy 2 power plant for the first time since 1999.
The plant was initially fired on oil, beginning a test phase that will continue for the next two months, GVEA said in a statement posted on its website. The plant is expected to begin producing a small amount of power in mid June. Full operation with coal is planned for late July.
Also known as the Healy Clean Coal plant, this facility operated briefly in 1999, but was idled due to safety and reliability concerns, GVEA said. The unit, which received U..S. Department of Energy (DOE) clean coal funding, had technical issues with some of its emissions control technology, which was considered advanced for the 1990s.
GVEA purchased the plant from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) in December 2013. Crews have spent the past year retrofitting and refurbishing the plant. GVEA updated systems and replaced obsolete controls.
Along the way, Golden Valley won federal court approval for the planned restart of the coal unit.
About 90 workers are involved with the restart. Healy 2 will create an additional 30 regular, full-time time jobs in the Denali Borough.
Healy 2 will double the amount of coal-fired generation in GVEA’s portfolio. It is listed as an 80-MW project.
Fluctuating oil prices and unpredictable natural gas-fired power from Anchorage have led to price spikes. Coal prices are much more predictable, which should help the co-op stabilize rates.
“The project is on schedule and on budget,” said Lynn Thompson, Vice President of Power Supply for GVEA.
Usibelli Coal Mine is gearing up to supply the fuel, which will be delivered by truck. Usibelli is Alaska’s only coal producer. Contractor Black & Veatch is coordinating the restart project.
Work will continue at the plant for the next two years. Environmental controls and a new warehouse are being built adjacent to Healy 2. The environmental controls are scheduled for completion in summer 2017.