Powering Strong Communities

Gas generators to bridge gap from fossil fuel to renewables for Colorado Springs Utilities

General Electric will provide six new natural gas generators to Colorado Springs Utilities that will help the public power utility bridge the gap from fossil fuel to renewable energy as Colorado Springs Utilities proceeds with plans to retire a power plant by 2023.

In a blog, Colorado Springs Utilities noted that as it works to achieve its Energy Vision goal of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, it has to consider how it will continue to provide reliable energy service to customers while simultaneously retiring the Martin Drake Power Plant by 2023.

“Today was a big day in reaching those future goals as we teamed up with General Electric (GE) to announce our stopgap measure for Drake: six new state-of-the-art natural gas generators that will be brought online in 2022,” the public power utility said in the blog posted on Feb. 10. “This is a tremendous first step for Colorado Springs Utilities as we work to retire Drake 12 years earlier than originally planned.”

The generators will sit on the site of the current coal pile at Drake and will remain there until 2025 at which point they will be moved to other locations in the Colorado Springs area. The units are expected to last 40 years.

The six power generators will produce 167 megawatts while the utility makes transmission upgrades throughout the city and retires its two remaining coal-fired units at Drake. This will not begin until the GE generators are tested, commissioned and operating.

“These generators are the last fossil fuels that we plan to bring onto our system and will help us better integrate renewable energy sources like wind and solar,” Colorado Springs Utilities said. They are dual-fuel capable with natural gas as the primary fuel. Diesel fuel will be stored onsite for back-up as needed.

Board of Colorado Springs Utilities OKs plan that will close coal plants, expand renewables

In June 2020, the board of Colorado Springs Utilities signed off on a plan under which the public power utility will decommission its coal plants by 2030, expand renewable energy and storage and reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2030.

The plan calls for grid modernization, integration of more cost-effective renewable energy and incorporation of new technologies like energy storage. Noncarbon resources such as wind and energy storage will replace the generation from the utility’s last coal-fired plant, the Ray Nixon Power Plant, which will be decommissioned no later than 2030.

To enable the decommissioning of the Martin Drake Power Plant no later than 2023, temporary natural gas generators will be placed at the site to ensure system reliability, Colorado Springs Utilities said at the time of the board action. Once new transmission projects are complete in the coming years, generation will no longer be needed in downtown Colorado Springs and these units will be relocated, the utility noted.