ARCHIVED  June 11, 2004

New power facility fires up near Hudson

HUDSON — It rises up dramatically from the rural landscape in Weld County just a few miles east of the tiny hamlet of Hudson.
Under construction for about three years, the 600-megawatt Rocky Mountain Energy Center went operational May 26 to supply power to Colorado Xcel Energy customers.
The $360 million project is under an exclusive 10-year contract with Xcel to provide the utility with electricity and help it meet peak summer power needs.
?It is going to play a critical role this summer and in future summers for us to meet our demand for electricity as well as year-round, obviously,? said Steve Roalstead, Xcel spokesman. ?It?s really going to be the facility that makes the difference in our meeting the demand.?
The natural-gas-fired Rocky Mountain Energy Center was built by Calpine Corp., a San Jose, Calif.-based independent power producer with 89 energy centers in 21 states, Canada and the United Kingdom.

?Colorado project?
Calpine spokesman Kent Robertson said about 550 construction workers were employed on the project and 24 technicians will now operate it. General contractor was The Industrial Company in Colorado Springs, and Utility Engineers in Denver did the engineering.
?This was very much a Colorado project,? Robertson said.
The facility is the second Calpine has built in Colorado to serve Xcel. The Blue Spruce Energy Center, a 300-megawatt, $125 million facility in Aurora, was completed in April of last year.
Robertson said the Blue Spruce facility is a ?peaker plant,? meaning that it operates only during Xcel?s peak demand periods. The Rocky Mountain facility, on the other hand, can produce electricity on a 24/7 basis, depending on Xcel?s power needs.
Both Rocky Mountain and Blue Spruce employ two giant gas turbines, similar to a jet plane?s turbines ?but much larger and much quieter,? Robertson said. While both are efficient and clean in their operation, Rocky Mountain goes further in its state-of-the-art design, he said.
?We take the heat from the (turbines?) exhaust to heat water to make steam and generate more electricity,? Robertson said. ?Heat is energy, and if you just exhaust it, you?re not making as productive of a use of your resources as you could be.?
The process is called ?combined cycle? with gas-fired and steam-powered turbines working together to maximize power production. ?It?s Calpine?s primary focus,? said Robertson of the engineering design. ?Most of the projects we?re building employ the combined-cycle process.?
Robertson said he didn?t know to what extent the Rocky Mountain facility would be in operation on an ongoing basis. ?We operate at Xcel?s pleasure,? he said. ?We think we will be one of their primary resources in their supply chain because we?re newer and more efficient.?

Huge investment
With the two Calpine facilities, Robertson said Xcel now has the ability to meet ever-increasing power demands along the Colorado Front Range. ?There?s a tremendous amount of flexibility for Xcel to dispatch electricity to meet their load,? he said.
Between the two plants, Calpine has spent nearly half a billion dollars to supply Xcel?s power needs. Those dollars were provided by Calpine and ?Wall Street investors,? Robertson noted, adding that none of the cost of the facilities will be immediately born by rate payers.
Steve Roalstead, Xcel spokesman, said there are currently no plans to seek Colorado Public Utilities Commission approval for a rate hike to pay for the new power. On the contrary, Roalstead said, any excess electricity capacity could be sold to other utilities ? a situation that could result in a rate rebate.
?If it is economical and in the interest of our customers, we have the ability to (sell electricity),? he said. ?We may sell energy on the market, but we?d have to share approximately 50 percent of the profit back with our customers. The Colorado PUC requires that.?
Roalstead said the two new power facilities give Xcel a system capacity of about 7,300 megawatts. A megawatt is roughly the amount of electricity needed to power 1,000 homes on a temperate day of 60 to 65 degrees, he said.
Roalstead said the facilities helped the company meet its 1999 Integrated Resource Plan that called for the development of an additional 2,000 megawatts of power production by the end of 2004. In addition to Blue Spruce and Rocky Mountain, Xcel added a 200-megawatt facility in Arapahoe County and a wind farm near Lamar, among other projects.
Roalstead said the opening of Rocky Mountain Energy Center in late May bodes well for Xcel?s ability to meet peak summer power demands. ?This summer coming on line it?s really going to be the facility that makes the difference in our meeting demands,? he said.

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HUDSON — It rises up dramatically from the rural landscape in Weld County just a few miles east of the tiny hamlet of Hudson.
Under construction for about three years, the 600-megawatt Rocky Mountain Energy Center went operational May 26 to supply power to Colorado Xcel Energy customers.
The $360 million project is under an exclusive 10-year contract with Xcel to provide the utility with electricity and help it meet peak summer power needs.
?It is going to play a critical role this summer and in future summers for us to meet our demand for electricity as well as year-round,…

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