In top coal state, gas to fuel next power plant

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm •  Published: May 22, 2013
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The next major power plant to be built in the nation's top coal-mining state will be fueled by natural gas.

Black Hills Corp. subsidiaries Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power and Black Hills Power held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for the Cheyenne Prairie Generating Station on the outskirts of Cheyenne.

Work on the 132-megawatt power plant — on track to be Wyoming's largest gas-fired plant — began a few weeks ago. The $222 million plant will employ up to a dozen people once it's finished next year.

Black Hills Corp. is building the plant while preparing to retire three coal-fired plants in Wyoming and South Dakota. The gas-fired plant makes financial and environmental sense while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pursues new rules that would restrict greenhouse gas emissions, company officials said.

"It's impractical to even permit a coal-fired power plant, because within 10 years you'd have to get emissions down to levels equivalent to combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plants," said Mark Lux, Black Hills Corp. vice president and general manager of power delivery.

The new plant will have three units, including two combined-cycle units that generate electricity with a gas-fired turbine plus a turbine driven by steam heated by the other turbine's exhaust.

The double turbines make combined-cycle systems cleaner and more efficient than simple-cycle units that don't have the additional steam-driven turbine.

"This will be the cleanest, air-emitting generating station in Wyoming once it's constructed, in terms of the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions per megawatt," Lux said.

The power plant is going up next to the city of Cheyenne's Dry Creek wastewater treatment facility. Some of the water used in the power plant will be gray water from the treatment plant.