Powering Strong Communities

Colorado Springs Utilities Marks Major Milestone In Plant Decommissioning Effort

In a major milestone on the path to decommissioning of the Martin Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs, Colo., all electric generation inside the plant were permanently shut down as of Sept. 1, Colorado Springs Utilities recently reported.

In the two years since the decision to decommission the plant, the public power utility has:

  • Stopped burning coal in August 2021
  • Removed the coal pile and all associated equipment
  • Found new jobs within the organization for more than 40 former Drake employees
  • Began installation of six temporary natural gas units adjacent to the plant
  • Have now ceased all generation activities inside the plant

Since last August, the two remaining generating units inside the Drake Power Plant ran on natural gas and served as peak load units and only ran as needed.

The six modular natural gas units currently being installed outside the plant -- set to be commissioned in first quarter 2023 -- will also serve as peak load generation and will remain onsite until a new transmission line is built.

The modular units will then be relocated to other parts of the system by 2027 to continue to serve a key function in preserving the reliability of Colorado Springs Utilities’ electric grid.

The next steps in fully removing the Drake Power Plant structure include the selection of a contractor to oversee the physical breakdown and removal of the plant’s internal equipment, stacks and exterior facade.

This process is expected to take approximately three years.

The decommissioning of the Drake Power Plant is a key component of Colorado Springs Utilities’ Sustainable Energy Plan, adopted by the Utilities Board in June 2020.

The adoption came after an 18-month public process to obtain customer and community input, “and an assessment of a growing regulatory landscape that includes aggressive targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to move away from fossil fuels,” the utility said.

The Sustainable Energy Plan includes the following targets:

  • Reduce carbon emissions at least 80% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 and
  • Retire all coal generation by 2030 and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Integrate new technologies responsibly by modernizing the electric grid and partnering with customers to create distributed energy resources throughout the community.
  • Increase renewable energy and incorporate storage resources.

To help manage future energy-related costs and adapt to a changing energy industry, Colorado Springs Utilities noted it is pursuing several key initiatives, starting with its entry into the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) on Aug. 1, 2022.

Becoming a member of SPP benefits Colorado Springs Utilities customers “by helping to insulate them from a volatile energy market, enhances the current and future reliability of the electric grid, and expands the ability to meet the organization’s clean energy goals,” the utility said.

By early 2024, Colorado Springs Utilities plans to add the 175 MW Pike Solar project to its system. When built, it will be the largest solar facility on the organization’s electric grid.

Additionally, by 2024, Colorado Springs Utilities will add up to 100 MW of battery storage -- the first of its kind on the system.

After adding Pike Solar to the existing solar, wind and hydro resources, renewable energy is estimated to represent 27% of Colorado Springs Utilities’ energy portfolio.