The Grand River Dam Authority is looking at the possibility of replacing one of its coal-fired units in Chouteau because impending environmental regulations on coal emissions may make upgrades too expensive.
GRDA has asked power providers to give it options on replacing a 490-megawatt coal-fired unit at its Chouteau power plant that began operations in 1981. It also wants information on buying another 100 megawatts of power to address anticipated growth. Responses to its request for proposal are due Wednesday.
The authority said it wants to replace or upgrade one of two Chouteau coal units by April 2016.
“Unit 1 is the older of the two units and GRDA is considering alternatives to implementing air quality control upgrades on this unit,” the authority said in its Nov. 28 request for proposal.
Another coal unit, which is jointly owned with KAMO Electric Cooperative, came online in 1986 and has a capacity of 520 megawatts.
Separately, GRDA also wants information on supplying up to 150 megawatts of renewable energy starting in June 2013.
GRDA CEO Dan Sullivan said late Friday, “We’re working toward making a recommendation to our board in February as to what the decision might be going forward regarding environmental upgrades and/or building natural gas.”
GRDA officials said the authority could spend more than $500 million in the next four years on its Chouteau coal plant, the Tulsa World reported in May.
If GRDA retires one of its Chouteau coal units in 2016, it will join another Oklahoma coal plant going out of service at that time. Public Service Co. of Oklahoma announced earlier this year it will retire a coal unit at its Northeastern station plant near Oologah by 2016. PSO, a unit of Ohio-based American Electric Power, also plans to retire its other coal unit at Northeastern by 2026 after making some emissions-control upgrades.
Whitney Pearson, with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Oklahoma, said GRDA’s exploration of other options is “another example of how the economics of coal in Oklahoma no longer make sense.” She said the Sierra Club looks forward to GRDA phasing out its other coal unit at Chouteau.
“Critical Clean Air Act standards are protecting public health and ensuring that utilities cannot pollute our communities unabated,” Pearson said. “Oklahoma has an abundance of wind and solar potential that are viable options to meet GRDA’s power needs.”
Generally, coal- and gas-fired plants are used by utilities for what’s called baseload generation. Wind and solar are intermittent sources.
GRDA, based in Vinita, generates electricity from three hydroelectric projects, the coal plant in Chouteau, a natural gas plant in Luther and by a power-purchase agreement for wind energy under construction in Canadian County.
Critical Clean Air Act standards are protecting public health and ensuring that utilities cannot pollute our communities unabated. Oklahoma has an abundance of wind and solar potential that are viable options to meet GRDA's power needs.”
Sierra Club's Beyond Coal