GRDA to upgrade Chouteau No. 2 unit
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Thursday, February 14, 2013
2/14/13 at 5:18 AM
VINITA - The Grand River Dam Authority will spend $86 million for environmental upgrades on its No. 2 coal-fired plant near Chouteau but will continuing contemplating when and how to retire or replace the older No. 1 unit, it was revealed Wednesday.
"We will continue to evaluate No. 1" GRDA CEO Dan Sullivan said. "What we do know is that we're planning to go forward with a full complement of environmental upgrades on Unit 2."
The combination of aging facilities and stricter emission-control regulations present the GRDA and most power companies with coal generation two unpleasant options: spending tens of millions of dollars to retrofit equipment that is near the end of its effective expected lifespan or hundreds of millions of dollars to replace it.
The decision has considerable long-term implications for GRDA customers, because it ultimately will affect rates and generation capacity of the state-owned utility.
The GRDA board met in executive session for two hours during Wednesday's monthly business meeting before authorizing Black and Veatch Engineering to prepare bid specifications and permit applications for emission-control equipment on No. 2 - a signal that they had decided to continue operation of that unit and suggesting that no similar decision had been made concerning No. 1.
Later, Sullivan said the GRDA intends "to run Unit 1 as long as we can without further investment."
The trend is to replace coal plants with more efficient, cleaner-burning combined-cycle natural gas generation. Construction and operating costs for natural gas plants have been coming down in recent years, but power companies are reluctant to become overly reliant on a single generation source.
Unit 1, with a rated capacity of 490 megawatts, was completed in 1981. Unit 2, which is already fitted with more modern emission equipment, went online in 1985 and has a rated capacity of 520 megawatts.
KAMO - formerly Kansas Arkansas Missouri Oklahoma - Electric Power Cooperative, also based in Vinita, has a 38 percent stake in Unit 2.
In addition to the coal plants, the GRDA generates electricity at three hydro-electric dams and owns an interest in the Redbud natural gas plant near Luther.
It also recently signed a long-term agreement for wind generation.
Also Wednesday, the GRDA board authorized a $240,000 workforce management consulting contract with two Oklahoma State University professors.
The contract is to help the GRDA deal with what it fears is a looming personnel crisis stemming from the age of its workforce.
Historically, the GRDA has had a low worker turnover rate, but over time that has resulted in the potential for a third or more of its employees to retire within the next five years.
"We're seeing multiple retirements every month, and many of those have been with us 30 years or more," Sullivan said. "We have people at the coal plant who built it. They know where every nut and bolt is."
Original Print Headline: GRDA to upgrade plant in Chouteau
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365