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By the end of 2022 and quite likely by summer, 2022, the 200-megawatt coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant near downtown Colorado Springs will cease operations, to be replaced by six 34-megawatt natural gas units. The gains:

The new units can fire up in eight minutes, compared to 12 to 18 hours for the coal plant, said Aram Benyamin, chief executive of Colorado Springs Utilities. That makes them more useful in backing up new renewable generation. “They will run when we need them, and don’t when we don’t need them,” said Benyamin.

Second, natural gas plants, by most measuring criteria, produce half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal combustion.

Third, the gas units being manufactured by General Electric, the first for this particular technology, LM2500XPRESS aeroderivative gas turbines, will be portable. After new transmission is built by the end of 2024, they can be moved to military bases or other locations around Colorado Springs.

Fourth, the fuel will be cheaper. Despite the $100 million cost of conversion, Benyamin said switching from coal to natural gas will save Colorado Springs so much money it can use the money to finance the transmission rebuild in the city without raising rates.

Fifth, the coal plant required water; not so these gas plants.

The General Electric gas-burning units were recently introduced and will be manufactured for probable delivery to Colorado Springs in summer 2022.

Colorado Springs is the third largest electrical utility in Colorado, responsible in 2018 for 8.3% of all electrical sales, behind Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

Like nearly all other of the state’s electrical utilities, Colorado Springs has committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from its power generation 80% by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels. “That is the minimum,” said Benyamin.

This is from theBig Pivots, an e-magazine tracking the energy and water transitions in Colorado and beyond. Subscribe at

Colorado Springs also operates the Ray Nixon plant about 20 miles south of the city. It plans to close it by 2030.

After the Drake coal plant is decommissioned, the 79-acre site will be repurposed following a public process. It lies near the center of Colorado Springs and is close to museums and other facilities.

The Martin Drake units were commissioned in 1968 and 1974, says Wikipedia. The Ray Nixon plant began operations in 1980.

Allen Best
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