The Platte River Power Authority is a municipally owned utility that services Fort Collins, Estes Park, Loveland, and Longmont, Colorado. In 2018, it made a commitment to use only electricity from zero emissions sources by 2030. This week it took a giant step toward meeting that goal by announcing it will decommission its Rawhide Unit 1 280 MW coal fired generating station in 2030 — 16 years ahead of schedule. PRPA has two other coal generating plants in Craig that will be decommissioned in 2025.
The company has been aggressively pursuing renewable energy options and expects half of its electricity will come from renewables by the end of this year. About 225 MW of electricity is being supplied to PRPA by the Roundhouse wind farm in southern Wyoming. In addition, there is a 30 MW solar power plant located on the parcel where Rawhide Unit 1 is located and a 22 megawatt solar installation and battery storage facility are under construction nearby, according to the Denver Post.
“Together with our owner communities, we are taking the next steps toward our energy future,” says Jason Frisbie, general manager and CEO of Platte River Power. “Although circumstances associated with the coronavirus prevent us from making this announcement in alignment with our current IRP process, we need to continue moving forward to reach our Resource Diversification Policy’s 100% non-carbon goal.”
Wade Troxell, Platte River Power’s chair and mayor of Fort Collins adds, “Rawhide Unit 1 has served us extremely well for the past 36 years but the time has come for us to move toward a cleaner future with grid modernization and integration while maintaining our core pillars of providing reliable, financially sustainable and environmentally responsible energy and services.”
The Rawhide Unit 1 facility employs 100 people, and PRPA says they will continue on with the company but transition to different roles as the new energy resources come online. There will also be a lengthy decommissioning process involved in removing the Rawhide Unit 1 generator from service.
Shutting down the facility early is a testament to how quickly the lower cost of electricity from renewables is putting pressure on conventional generating sources. It also is a reminder of the very long design life of all thermal generating facilities. Planning for Rawhide Unit 1 began in 1979 and its service life was expected to run through 2046. Back then, no one could have predicted that renewables would become the preferred choice of utility companies long before Rawhide Unit 1 reached the end of its useful life.
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