Comanche power station

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Comanche power station is an operating power station of at least 1252-megawatts (MW) in Pueblo, Colorado, United States with multiple units, some of which are not currently operating.

Location

Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
Comanche power station Pueblo, Pueblo, Colorado, United States 38.2075611, -104.5762722 (exact)

The map below shows the exact location of the power station.

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Unit-level coordinates (WGS 84):

  • Unit 1, Unit 2: 38.2075611, -104.5762722
  • Unit 3: 38.208546, -104.57531

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology Start year Retired year
Unit 1 retired coal - subbituminous 382.5 subcritical 1973 2022[1]
Unit 2 operating coal - subbituminous 396 subcritical 1975 2025 (planned)
Unit 3 operating coal - subbituminous 856.8 supercritical 2010 2030 (planned)

Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details

Unit name Owner
Unit 1 Public Service Company of Colorado [100.0%]
Unit 2 Public Service Company of Colorado [100.0%]
Unit 3 Public Service Company of Colorado [66.67%], Holy Cross Electric Assn Inc [8.0%], CORE Electric Cooperative [25.33%]

Project-level coal details

  • Coal source(s): Belle Ayr Mine, Eagle Butte Mine, North Antelope Rochelle Mine, Foidel Creek Mine

Unit Retirements

Unit 1 (383 MW) is planned for retirement in 2022, and unit 2 (393 MW) in 2025. The units were commissioned in 1973 and 1975, respectively. Unit 3 (857 MW), commissioned in 2010, will remain operating.[2] By 2026 Xcel plans to generate nearly 55% of its electricity from renewable sources.[3]

In August 2017, Xcel announced that it will retire Unit 1 at the end of 2022 and Unit 2 at the end of 2025. Company president David Eves attributed the retirement to "the fundamental economics of these technologies (wind and solar)." Power from the plant will be replaced by increases in solar, wind, and natural gas generation. According to a report in the Denver Post, the retirement agreement involved more than a dozen parties, including environmental groups, independent power producers, and consumer advocates. Since coal for the plant comes from Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the change will not directly affect production at Colorado mines. As many as 90 fewer workers out of the 172 currently employed will be displaced, but Xcel said it will try to find new jobs for displaced employees. According to the Denver Post article, the coming expiration of tax credits for wind and solar created a limited window of opportunity for developing substitute power sources. As a result of the retirement of the Comanche units, the share of renewables in Xcel's generation mix is expected to rise from 29 percent currently to 55 percent after 2026. By the end of 2017, Xcel will request competitive bids for 1,000 MW of additional wind, 700 MW of solar, and 700 MW of natural gas generation under its "Colorado Energy Plan."[2]

In August 2022, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission stated that Unit 3 would be retired by 2030.[4]

Unit 1 was retired in December 2022.[5][6]

Background

In 2004, Xcel entered into a Settlement Agreement with environmental groups to reduce emissions and install SO2 controls at the existing units. The promised limitations are supposed to result in lower overall pollutants, even with the proposed third unit.[7]

A “least cost resource plan” for Comanche Unit 3 was presented to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in 2004.[8]

In 2005 Clean Energy Action and Citizens for Clean Air and Water in Pueblo filed a legal complaint challenging the permit on several grounds, including the state’s failure to investigate whether emissions would actually be reduced, the potential for negative impact on surrounding wilderness, and the lack of a public comment period on the permit.[9] The plant has also been controversial because of a proposal to charge Colorado ratepayers for the new plant while it is under construction. As a consequence of the public fallout surrounding this project[10], Xcel has acknowledged that it may never build another coal-fired power plant.[11]

On January 31, 2007, Dan Friedlander, a member of Clean Energy Action, filed suit against the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), alleging that the PUC allowed Xcel to violate the "long-standing practices of not charging ratepayers for power plants until they are operational."[12]

As of July 2008, the air permit is under appeal at the Colorado State Supreme Court and a decision has not been reached in the Friedlander case.[13]

In May 2009, Xcel Energy asked state regulators for a $180.2 million electricity rate hike to recoup money spent on power plants and equipment in Colorado. Most of the investment was for the Comanche 3 plant, which is reported to go online later this year.[14]

As of October 2009, the Unit 3 was almost complete, and Xcel expected it to be in service by December 2009.[15]

Comanche 3 began generating electricity July 6 2010.[16]

Both utility executives and environmental leaders say Comanche 3 will likely be Colorado's last coal plant - unless cost-effective carbon capture and sequestration technology with acceptable environmental risks gets developed.[16]

Opposition to Comanche 3

On February 26, 2010, local citizens in Denver staged a 'die-in' at the headquarters for Xcel Energy in opposition to the utility’s plan to build a new coal-fired power plant, Comanche 3, in Pueblo, Colorado. The plant would be the largest in the coal-fired power station in the state. Protesters cited environmental as well as social and economic issues as reasons for their actions. “Our leaders are failing to lead and Xcel is failing to take their responsibility seriously. Xcel should expect more protests and actions unless they start closing down coal plants and moving Colorado to 100% renewable electricity,” Kate Clark, a Power Past Coal activist. The protest was part of an ongoing series of actions by concerned citizens in Colorado who seek to end coal-power in the state.[17]

In September 2022, CORE Electric Cooperative began the process of relinquishing their share of the power station's Unit 3, which was said to be due to “mismanagement and incompetence” by the Xcel Energy, the plant's operator. The unit has experienced chronic breakdowns and operation challenges since coming online in 2010.[18]

Two workers died in an accident at the plant earlier in 2022, and the The Colorado Public Utilities Commission had already announced plans to retire the plant by 2030.[4] In March 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a $300,000 fine to a contracting company at the Comanche power station over the fatal accident.[19]

In October 2023, CORE Electric Cooperative filed a $253 million lawsuit against Xcel Energy over alleged mismanagement of Comanche Unit 3. The lawsuit claimed that Xcel's "poor operating practices" led to unit shutdowns on over 700 days since 2010.[20]

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 5,581,579 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 13,854 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 8,411 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 132 lb.

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Comanche Station

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[21] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[22]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Comanche Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 7 $51,000,000
Heart attacks 11 $1,200,000
Asthma attacks 130 $7,000
Hospital admissions 5 $120,000
Chronic bronchitis 5 $2,100,000
Asthma ER visits 7 $2,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Citizen groups

Articles and Resources

References

  1. "Colorado's Clean Energy Plan Information Sheet, August 2023 Update" (PDF). Xcel Energy. 2023-08. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Aldo Svaldi, "Xcel Energy plans to retire two coal-fired plants in Pueblo, increase renewables," Denver Post, August 29, 2017
  3. "Xcel Energy details plan to retire two coal plants, rely more on wind and solar," 9News, June 7, 2018
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Xcel Energy will stop burning coal by 2030. Here’s what their plan for clean energy projects in Colorado includes" CPR News, August 23, 2022
  5. "Paying off the coal plants," Big Pivots, March 30, 2023
  6. "Colorado’s Clean Energy Plan Information Sheet, August 2023 Update," Xcel Energy, August 2023
  7. "Colorado Coal Plant Proposals", Western Resource Advocates, undated, accessed January 2008.
  8. "Least-Cost Resource Plan", Xcel Energy corporate website, April 30, 2004 (Pdf).
  9. "Colorado PUC and the Pueblo Coal Plant: Legal issues 2007-2006", Colorado Clean Energy Action.
  10. "Xcel Finds That New Coal Plant Is Not Welcome", Environment Colorado, January 28, 2004.
  11. "Comanche Smokestack a Lightning Rod", Denver Post, November 20, 2007.
  12. Suit targets Xcel Pueblo plan", Steve Raabe, Denver Post, January 31, 2007.
  13. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed October 2008.
  14. "Xcel files to boost rates $180.2 Million", Gargi Chakrabarty, The Denver Post, May 2, 2009.
  15. "Coal plant construction continues in earnest at some sites," SNL Interactive, October 5, 2009. (Subscription required.)
  16. 16.0 16.1 "King Coal, politics and the new energy economy: Xcel Energy's Comanche 3 coal-fired plant underscores the debate between "cheap," reliable energy and its costs 
to the environment" ColoradoBiz, September 1, 2010.
  17. "Local Citizens ‘Die-in’ at Xcel HQ in Coal Protest Group calls on Xcel to Keep Comanche 3 Closed and Produce 100% Renewable Electricity by 2020" Katie Clark, Colorado Indymedia, February 26, 2010
  18. "Colorado’s largest electric cooperative no longer wants to own a piece of the state’s troubled Comanche coal plant" CPR News, September 7, 2022
  19. "OSHA fines company $300,000 for safety violations after 2 workers killed at Pueblo power plant," CBS Colorado, March 12, 2023
  20. "$253 million lawsuit against Xcel Energy claiming power plant mismanagement is underway," The Denver Gazette, October 6, 2023
  21. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  22. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010

Additional data

To access additional data, including an interactive map of coal-fired power stations, a downloadable dataset, and summary data, please visit the Global Coal Plant Tracker on the Global Energy Monitor website.