Colorado Springs retires 51-MW unit at Martin Drake coal plant

In a Jan. 4 blog posting, Colorado Springs Utilities said it has officially retired the coal-fired Unit 5 at its Martin Drake power plant.

CSU said that Unit 5 had been generating reliable, affordable electric power since 1962. The blog post added: “While two other generating units remain active at the plant, the retirement of Unit 5 is significant in that it marks the first step in decommissioning the entire plant. Early last year, our Utilities Board made the decision to decommission the entire facility, which has been in operation for more than 80 years, no later than 2035 when it approved the Electric Integrated Resource Plan. This plan sets the direction on how our energy is produced for the next 20 years and beyond.

“While the retirement of Unit 5 had minimal impacts to our system, the decommissioning of the other two units at the plant will have significant impacts on our transmission system that will require capital expenditures. That is why our electric planning department has started to study future electric generation and transmission options, such as building new supply resources, where they should be located and how we will get this power to our customers.

“Advancements in renewable energy, in addition to regulatory and environmental changes, can greatly impact our options to replace the Drake Power Plant. One thing is certain though, our future in energy generation will remain steadfast: a focus on a reliable, safe and diverse energy portfolio that keeps electric rates competitive.”

The Colorado Air Pollution Control Division was taking comment this past fall on a drafft air permit that would allow CSU to retire this unit. Martin Drake consists of three boilers that fire coal as the primary fuel and use natural gas as backup and during startup. The three boilers utilize low-sulfur sub-bituminous coal and Drake Units 6 and 7 will use Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD)-like systems to reduce SO2 emissions. Drake Unit 7’s FGD became fully operational in May 2016 and Drake Unit 6’s scrubber was under construction at the time of this permit issuance, the division noted.

Division documents show these gross MW ratings for the Martin Drake units: Unit 5 (51 MW); Unit 6 (85 MW); and Unit 7 (142 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.