Colorado Springs to decommission 46-MW Martin Drake coal unit by the end of 2017

Posted to its website following a Jan. 20 Utilities Board meeting where the issue was decided, was a notice by Colorado Springs Utilities that it will shut a coal-fired unit at its Martin Drake plant by the end of next year.

“After approving the Electric Integrated Resource Plan in November, the Utilities Board has now approved a motion to decommission Unit 5 at the Martin Drake Power Plant by December 31, 2017,” said the notice. “The Board had many conversations about the unit, including whether to convert it to natural gas. However, that would require about a $1 million dollar investment. Decommissioning the 46 megawatts of Unit 5 will realize a $2M net present value savings in first 10 years of the shut down. The decision triggers the completion of the EIRP and allows us to submit it to the Western Area Power Administration in the next few months.”

A Jan. 13 memo attached to the Jan. 20 board meeting agenda said: “The EIRP process began in late 2014 with completion no later than fourth quarter of 2015. The EIRP was completed and presented to the Board in November of 2015. The Board has approved the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee (UPAC) recommended Energy Vision with an increase in the proposed Demand Side Management (DSM) goal from 10 percent to 12 percent by 2020, agreed on a decommissioning date for the Drake facility no later than December 2035 and is evaluating options for Drake 5 which include: mothballing, decommissioning and conversion to gas no later than December 2017. The EIRP process considered the viability of all existing resources including individual unit and full plant decommissioning of Drake Power Plant at short, mid, and long-term timeframes.”

Another Jan. 13 memo noted: “As you may have seen recently in the newspapers or in television coverage, Arch Coal has filed for bankruptcy. Arch has been one of our largest coal suppliers and our fuel team has been tracking this situation over the last 18 months. Approximately 35% of Colorado Springs Utilities’ 2015 coal purchases came from the Arch’s Black Thunder mine in the Powder River Basin area of Wyoming. Currently, Colorado Springs Utilities has no coal under contract with Arch but does not plan to exclude them from being a spot coal supplier. Arch is committed to maintaining normal operations and has stated its customers should see no interruptions in service as a result of this legal action.”

The Martin Drake plant as a whole provides nearly one-third of the community’s power year-round. The three units currently in operation – units 5, 6 and 7 – were built in 1962, 1968 and 1974, respectively. Unit 6 is 77 MW in size, while Unit 7 is at 131 MW.

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.