COLORADO SPRINGS — Leaders with Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) have plans to decommission the Drake power plant years ahead of schedule. "We're moving very, very aggressively forward," said CSU CEO Aram Benyamin. The timeline now moves up a dozen years with the coal-fired generators stopping before the end of 2022.
A nearly $100-million investment helps expedite shutting down the coal-fired power plant on the edge of downtown Colorado Springs. The purchase of massive, yet moveable natural gas generators, makes way for coal power to go away "Retire the Drake coal-fired power plant up to 12 years early," said General Electric, American Gas Power, CEO, Eric Gray. GE makes the generators.
Closing one of the largest sources of power for Colorado Springs is much more complex than just flipping the off switch. There has to be a transition. The six natural gas generators are the bridge for change. They are massive, yet moveable. It means they can operate near downtown as a temporary location while Drake comes down, and transmission lines are rerouted.
When demolition work is completed in 2025, the generators move to support renewable energy systems. The purpose is to supplement days when, for example, clouds lower production at solar farms. They do produce some emissions, but it is much less than power made with coal. "Less than half of the CO-2 intensity of coal," said Gray. Rather than constantly running they will be used only as needed. With six separate units, all or just some can run depending on need. Each one can be started and producing power within eight minutes.
When the new generators are in place and ready to power-up next year, coal shuts-down. "It'll be an instantaneous exchange of emissions from old permit to new permit at the moment that we declare these units on," said Benyamin.