At a glance
• Tri-State Generation and Transmission plans to begin a $39 million renovation April 4 on the Craig powerplant.
• The renovation will allow the plant to increase production without increasing emissions.
• Tri-State officials said the project is not related to Obama's statements about taxing greenhouse gas emissions.
Officials expect an upcoming $39 million renovation project at the Tri-State Generation and Transmission powerplant in Craig to increase output without increasing pollution.
The project has been about four years in the making.
Tri-State first installed a turbine upgrade on the plant's third power unit about four years ago, Tri-State communications manager Jim Van Someren said.
The renovation, planned to begin April 4, will allow the plant to utilize the new turbine's increased capacity without increasing emissions.
"It's a big environmental upgrade," Van Someren said. "We recognize the opportunity to increase the effectiveness of an existing plant at a cost that was beneficial to us. Thirty megawatts is a significant amount of power (to generate) without building a new facility."
Through the renovation process, workers will install new burners to limit oxides of nitrogen emissions, upgrade the plant's smokestack scrubbers and complete a variety of maintenance tasks, Van Someren said.
Tri-State officials expect the project to require about 600 on-site workers at its peak, in addition to current power plant employees.
Van Someren did not know whether workers would be hired locally, because the job's general and sub-contractors will hire on their own.
The decision to lessen the plant's environmental impact is not related to President Barack Obama's stated plan to institute a cap and trade system or levy a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, Van Someren said.
During his 2008 campaign, Obama said he would be in favor of either approach to reduce pollution.
Under a cap and trade system, the government would limit emissions at a certain level and then issue a finite number of pollution credits to energy producers. If a producer needed to increase emissions, it would have to buy credits from an energy producer that could reduce emissions, thus rewarding companies that reduce pollution.
The Craig power plant is a valuable asset to Tri-State, Van Someren said, and the company invested in its future to ensure it could meet future electricity demands.
"As far as any tax on carbon emissions, it's an issue that is very important to us : and something we are engaged in," Van Someren said. "But it's not driving any decisions we're making currently. The investment we're making in this unit is something that will benefit our members for years to come."
He added Tri-State does not think U.S. coal production will disappear anytime soon.
"We think coal production will have a place in our energy future, in one way or another, because it's one of our most abundant and cheapest resources," Van Someren said.