Closure will mark end to all coal-fired generation for utility
FORT COLLINS, Colo., June 16, 2020 – The Platte River Power Authority today announced that its Rawhide Unit 1 generating resource will cease producing electricity by 2030, 16 years before its planned retirement date.
Platte River’s Board approved the Resource Diversification Policy in December 2018, calling for a 100% noncarbon energy mix by 2030, and planners immediately began studying future energy mix options without the use of its 280 MW coal-fired unit as part of its integrated resource planning (IRP) process. While the IRP is currently on hold until public meetings and stakeholder engagement resumes, Platte River’s leadership needed to announce Unit 1’s retirement to support state regulatory timelines that align with the broader objectives for a noncarbon future.
The last IRP Platte River completed in 2016 did not call for additional generating capacity. Platte River nevertheless added 30 MW of new solar energy, studied the feasibility of a zero-net carbon energy mix, signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for an additional 150 MW of wind power and later increased the amount to 225 MW, and will soon add 22 MW of additional solar power with 2 MWh of battery capacity. The energy provider is currently negotiating another PPA for up to 150 MW of new solar generation.
“Together with our owner communities, we are taking the next steps toward our energy future,” said Jason Frisbie, general manager and CEO of Platte River. “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% noncarbon goal.”
“Rawhide Unit 1 has served us extremely well for the past 36 years,” said Wade Troxell, Platte River Board chair and Fort Collins mayor, “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.”
Construction to build Rawhide Unit 1, on ground northwest of Wellington, Colorado began in 1979 and commercial operations started in 1984. Unit 1 quickly emerged as Platte River’s most reliable source of low-cost energy for its four owner communities of Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland.
The baseload unit has earned national recognition for its reliability, capacity and environmental performance. Throughout its life, Unit 1 has operated with an equivalent availability factor of 97.28%, running thousands of hours between planned or unplanned outages, delivering energy up to its nameplate capacity. When built, the unit featured state-of-the art emissions controls that most plants were not required to have and more were added before regulatory mandates.
“Unit 1 has outperformed nearly every other coal plant of its type in the nation and that is a testament not only to its design but also to the people who run it,” noted Frisbie, who began his career at the Rawhide Energy Station and became its plant manager before being promoted to chief operating officer, then general manager and CEO. “It performs so well because all of the 100 skilled professionals who work there take a great deal of pride in the facility and in the jobs they do.”
From the beginning, Unit 1 provided more than half of the energy needs for Platte River’s owner communities, supplemented by federal hydropower contracts, natural gas resources, market purchases, wind and solar resources. By the end of 2020, more than 50% of the energy delivered by Platte River will come from noncarbon resources including wind, solar and hydro facilities, and Platte River continues to take steps needed to achieve its 100% noncarbon goal. Prior to today’s announcement, Rawhide Unit 1 was scheduled to operate until 2046.
In addition to Unit 1, the 4,560-acre Rawhide Energy Station also hosts five natural gas combustion turbines and a 30 MW solar farm, along with another 22 MW of solar power (with battery storage) currently under construction. Energy from the 225 MW Roundhouse wind farm located in southern Wyoming will be delivered to the Rawhide Energy Station and then to the owner communities. Platte River’s ownership interest in the Craig station will also conclude when Unit 1 is retired in 2025 and Unit 2 follows, thereby ending the use of all coal-fired generating capacity by 2030.
The Rawhide Energy Station has multiple generation resources, and workers will be needed for those facilities. Frisbie asserted plans will be developed to smoothly transition workers to new roles after closure. Following its retirement, Unit 1 will undergo a lengthy decommissioning process.
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Platte River Power Authority is a not-for-profit wholesale electricity generation and transmission provider that delivers safe, reliable, environmentally responsible and financially sustainable energy and services to its owner communities of Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland, Colorado for delivery to their utility customers. For more information, visit prpa.org
Facts about Rawhide Unit 1
- Construction began in 1979 and concluded in 1984
- Commercial operations began in April of 1984
- Capacity: 280 MW
- Employees: Approximately 100
- Coal source: Antelope Mine, Powder River Basin
- Original debt retired in 2018
- Uses reclaimed water from a domestic wastewater treatment plant with no discharge of water
- Sulfur dioxide removal system added during construction
- Particulate removal system (baghouse) added during construction
- Mercury control system added in 2010, more than one year before state requirements and 4.5 years before federal regulatory deadlines
- Low-water bottom ash transfer system added proactively in 2018 for enhanced environmental performance
- 2001 – Unit 1 named the fifth cleanest coal-fired power plant in the U.S. by Electric Light & Power magazine
- 2008 – Unit 1 named one of the top five U.S. coal-fired power plants by Power Magazine
- 2014 – Unit 1 named best utilized plant in the U.S. by Electric Light & Power magazine
- 2019 – Coal ash management system wins Best Energy/Industrial Project recognition by Engineering News-Record (ENR) Mountain States