Tri-State sees record-breaking year in production

Tri-State Generation and Transmission charted a record-breaking year in 2002, producing and delivering 11.7 million megawatt-hours of electricity to its 44 member distribution systems.

The peak demand for the year reached a record 2,050 megawatts in July, compared to the previous high of 1,879 megawatts in August 2001.

Tri-State has exceeded its production in each of the last five years, something spokesman Jim VanSomeren attributes to growth.

"There's been a lot of development in our cooperatives, especially along the Front Range. It continues to grow at a strenuous pace," he said.

That's good news for Tri-State, owner of 13 generating stations in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, including the Craig Station. It posted an operating revenue of $616.7 million with $32.7 million in net margins.

With the exception of the approximately 330 jobs provided locally, Tri-State's banner year has no impact on Craig. Yampa Valley Electric Association, Northwest Colorado's electricity provider, is not among Tri-State's clients.

"Tri-State depends more and more on the Craig Station and will continue to invest more money and more resources to keep it a viable operation," VanSomeren said.

The Craig Station is Tri-State's largest power plant.

Because of the growing need for power, Tri-State had to purchase some electricity on the open market to serve its 18 Colorado, 12 New Mexico and six Nebraska electric systems, most of which came in the form of hydropower.

Tri-State was forced to make up for the shortfall in power available at various dwindling water storage facilities. Hydropower normally accounts for approximately 25 percent of the power Tri-State sells and is purchased from the Western Area Power Administration.

All Tri-State's power plants, including the Craig Station, are operating at near peak capacity.

"We're required to always have a little operating reserve but, as demand increases, we need to stay ahead of the curve," VanSomeren said.

That means the purchase or construction of additional generating facilities.

The construction and addition of new generation resources was one primary focus of Tri-State in 2002. Construction of a two-unit generating station in Limon, Colo., and a similar station in Brighton, Colo., was completed with both facilities coming on-line in the spring of 2002. Construction on a third facility is expected to be complete shortly.

In addition, Tri-State purchased the 85-megawatt natural gas-fired Rifle Generating Station. Before the purchase, Tri-State was purchasing the electricity the plant

generated.

"Every load-serving utility in the state sees a need for increased capacity in the future because the demand continues to rise," VanSomeren said.

One of Tri-State's biggest projects began in 2002 -- the $116 million retrofit of the Craig Station.

Construction now is approaching its height and the project remains on budget and on schedule for its mid-2004 completion, VanSomeren said.

The project, an environmental retrofit, is the result of a lawsuit brought against Tri-State by the Sierra Club in October of 1996. The owners of the power plant settled the lawsuit by agreeing to upgrade its pollution-control systems in Units 1 and 2 to baghouses -- state-of-the art equipment that better contains particles released into the air during the process of burning coal. Baghouses use a bag filter as opposed to electrostatic precipitators that capture particles. Wet limestone scrubbers also are used to remove sulfur dioxide.

At its height, the project is expected to employ 300 plumbers, pipe fitters, general laborers, operating engineers and electrical workers. That is expected to occur in August.

Right now, there are 156 workers on site for the retrofit.

A planned outage -- shutdown for cleaning and testing -- is expected to coincide with the retrofit and is scheduled for mid-September on Unit 1. That project is expected to draw between 100 and 150 workers.

"We tried to schedule the outage in conjunction with the environmental project because that unit will have to be brought off-line at some point for that project," VanSomeren said.

The outage for Unit 2 is scheduled for mid-March.

Both are scheduled for a time when energy demand is not at its peak.

Units 1 and 2 each generate 428 megawatts of power. Unit 3 generates 407 megawatts. One

megawatt serves the power requirements of about 1,000 residential customers.

Tri-State has already made arrangements to buy supplemental power during the outages, each of which is expected to last about seven weeks.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.