Pueblo environmentalists are worried the area is becoming the power provider for the rest of the state – with three coal-burning power plants in operation, another plant being built and a gas-burning plant planned on the county’s border.
“We’re already producing more energy than we use here,” said Ross Vincent of Pueblo, a senior policy adviser for the Sierra Club. “Whatever the folks in Denver don’t want up there, they put it down here. It’s wrong and unethical.”
Permitting for the 550-megawatt gas-fired plant southeast of Fountain is underway, and officials with Invenergy, the company that wants to build the plant, hope construction begins in May with completion in 2009. The company will meet with environmentalists on Wednesday to discuss the plant.
The Squirrel Creek Power plant would be able to augment energy from wind generation plants in eastern Colorado, said Doug Carter, vice president of development for Invenergy.
“Once you get a plant like this, you can bring in more wind power,” Carter said. “When the wind is blowing, you can back the plant down. When it’s not, you can fire it up.”
Margaret Barber of Citizens for Clean Air in Pueblo said she worries that those behind the gas-fired plant also have said it will occasionally use oil as a backup source of fuel.
“I don’t want fuel oil burned anywhere in Colorado, certainly not here,” she said.
The Squirrel Creek plant on 160 acres southeast of Fountain would be on land optioned from the State Land Board. The site was chosen, say Invenergy officials, because of the proximity to gas and electrical transmission lines.
The electricity will be for Xcel Energy customers, who make up about 70 percent of the state’s population, said Mark Stutz, Xcel Energy spokesman.
“A power plant still supports the grid,” Stutz said. “It is true that it is for primarily metropolitan areas. But we serve electricity all the way down the Front Range. ”
The state needs more energy production, say industry analysts, and that is going to come from more power plants.
Outgoing Public Utilities Commission chairman Greg Sopkin recently told The Denver Post that 3,000 megawatts of new electricity will be needed by 2025 – enough to power 3 million homes. He predicted that will come from a mix of coal-fired plants, wind plants and even nuclear.
In 2001 and 2003, Xcel added a total of 4,000 megawatts. By 2012, Xcel is expected to add 1,000 megawatts in gas-fired generation – including the Squirrel Creek plant – and roughly 700 megawatts in coal-fired generation.
Also, Xcel plans 775 megawatts in wind generation and 8 megawatts of solar generation.
Staff writer Jeremy P. Meyer may be reached at 303-954-1367 or email@example.com.
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