Utility Building New Turbine

Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 04:12 PM gHale

Black Hills Energy got the OK to build an additional $70 million turbine at its power plant east of Pueblo.

The three-member Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which regulates public utilities in the state, approved the Black Hills’ Energy Resource Plan at its Tuesday meeting.

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To pay for the turbine, Black Hills will need an additional 4.8 percent in revenue, which the company said it will not pass along to rate payers until 2017.

Wes Ashton, a Black Hills spokesman, said the PUC approved a six-year energy plan with the support of PUC staff and its Office of Consumer Counsel. He said the additional turbine would replace the 40 megawatts of power Black Hills is losing by closing its coal-fired Canon City plant.

Ashton called the additional turbine “the most cost-effective option for our customers over the long-term, as compared to buying power on the open market.”

The utility acknowledges the turbine only will see a need for use during peak power demands in its initial years of operation. The city of Pueblo insists it will see use about one day a year in its first five years.

A year ago, the PUC turned away Black Hills’ request to build a $100 million turbine that would produce 88 megawatts of extra power. Then, the commission said that was too much extra power and too expensive a plan for rate payers.

At the time, independent power producers in Colorado said there was ample power in the state that Black Hills could buy instead. Those power companies didn’t oppose the Black Hills plan this year and a lawyer involved said they expect to get business from Black Hills.

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