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How will Xcel Energy repurpose the Hayden coal plant in northwestern Colorado after power generation there ends in 2028?

Xcel Energy, the operator and primary owner, has assured locals that the plant will be repurposed, offering a continued tax base for the school district. But what exactly?

Alice Jackson, the president of Xcel Energy-Colorado, hinted at some possibilities in an interview with the Steamboat Pilot recently.

“Whether it’s battery storage that can be installed there or other innovative technology currently being explored—there’s a number of different opportunities that we’re exploring right now.”

In a preview of its plans to be submitted by March 31 to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Xcel said it plans to add 400 megawatts of battery storage to its system, but did not specify where. It already has 275 megawatts of battery storage being assembled or planned near Pueblo and in Adams County.

Might one of those innovative technologies be green hydrogen?

A key thing to remember about the plant at Hayden, as well as the Craig plants roughly 15 miles to the west, is that they have transmission lines extending south and east. It only makes sense to use those transmission lines.

In a webinar in October, Tri-State ‘s chief executive, Duane Highley, said his utility has made no decision about storage, nor does it need to until about 2024.

On that same webinar, State Sen. Chris Hansen, the state’s geekiest energy legislator, suggested a future for green hydrogen. Green hydrogen is made from water, and the power plant already has water rights associated with the combustion of coal. However, as Hansen later noted, green hydrogen is in the early stage of development and still very expensive. However, if costs and other issues are worked out, it could provide utilities a way to “store” the renewable energy for weeks or even months. That remains a fundamental conundrum for Xcel and other utilities in Colorado, who have plentiful wind through much of winter and spring but not so much in summer.

Xcel has 68 employees at the plant. In Pueblo, where it is scheduled to close two coal units in 2022 and 2025, it has committed to working with employees and their union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, on a transition plan. The same is true at Hayden. That includes training opportunities to work in renewable or other energy sectors.

“We can’t just transfer the impacted workers to another power plant anymore,” said Rich Meisinger, business manager of the BIEW Local 111, at a press conference in February. “I think the company and union are working more closely than they ever have to secure opportunities for good union jobs in Colorado.”

Those renewable jobs are unlikely to be found in the Yampa Valley, whose wind and solar utility-scale resources fall short of those found elsewhere in Colorado.

Wind in northwest Colorado is not nearly as consistent as that of eastern Colorado, where Xcel—and also Tri-State and other utilities—plan major wind and solar development (and $1.7 billion in transmission lines to support that new generation). Solar also lags some other areas of Colorado.


Moffat County objects to Biden 30% plan for lands

Moffat County commissioners have registered their opposition to President Joe Biden’s plan to conserve 30% of the nation’s land and water by 2030 as part the broader effort to address climate change.

The Craig Daily Press reports that the resolution cited the fact that the top 10 taxpayers in Moffat County make up 62% of the county’s assessed valuation, and all of those top 10 depend directly upon federal lands or the resources under the surface.

Too, the commissioners pointed to the amount of land in the county already off-limits to development. They include 339,036 acres of wilderness study areas and lands with wilderness character; 150,000 acres in the Dinosaur National Monument; and the 14,000 acres of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge, plus tens of thousands of acres in state wildlife areas, plus land in private conservation easements.

Allen Best
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