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Tri-State G&T asks to cease gas plant operations at Rifle by early October


Tri-State Generation and Transmission filed an application with Colorado regulators to cease operations of three natural gas turbines near Rifle in October.

To continue operations of the 85-megawatt combined-cycle generating facility beyond 2022, said Barry Ingold, the senior vice president of generation, in a filing with the Public Utilities Commission, the wholesale provider must upgrade elements of the aging units to comply with environmental regulations governing discharge into a waterway of mercury, iron and arsenic, and also copper.

Tri-State has estimated the five-year capital expenditure necessary to keep the Rifle plant running through 2030 at $8 million to $20 million.

This is a considerable cost for a facility that has been rarely used. The plant represented less than 0.5% of Tri-State’s total system generation in 2021. It was available but not used during the February 2021 cold snap, a blizzard called Winter Storm Uri, a time that Tri-State turned to fuel oil in lieu of wind generation. It has had 13 annual “starts” in recent years, according to the testimony of Lisa K. Tiffin, the vice president of planning & analytics.

Modeling conducted by Tri-State shows that the wholesale provider can maintain a planning reserve margin well in excess of a 15% benchmark and will not have any unserved energy. In short, it’s not needed for maintaining system reliability.

All of this means that repairing the plant would not be money well spent.

The application to the PUC says that two of the four employees at the plant are eligible for retirement, and all four will be offered severance packages. Two are members of the electricians’ union.

In addition, Tri-State plans to donate $50,000 to the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corporation. It plans to sell the 13.5-acre site.

The plant was built in 1987 to generate electricity, with the heat used in greenhouses. The greenhouses ceased operation in 2002. Tri-State bought the generating station that same year for $9.36 million.

Allen Best
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