Stricter EPA regulations are forcing some changes at the city's municipal light and power (ML&P) plant.
The regulations, which take effect in May 2013, require lower CO emissions and more stringent maintenance and record keeping. Four of the seven engines in the power plant are affected by the RICE (Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines) regulations.
The two oldest engines in the plant date from 1935 and 1936. Over the next 20 years, five additional engines were added as demand for electricity increased in the growing community. In the late '60s, it was determined it would be more cost effective to purchase power than to generate it, plus it was getting more difficult to meet demand. Currently, the ML&P plant is used for emergencies and to generate electricity for the grid under its contract with its power supplier, Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN). The city expects to receive $86,400 for that power in 2012.
Working with a consultant, utilities director Steve Glammeyer came up with six options to make the engines RICE compliant. Options range from closing the plant (which was quickly dismissed by staff and council) to retrofitting the four non-compliant engines at an estimated cost of $210,000 to $262,000 per engine.
As council members considered the six options, they were reminded of the summer two years ago when a DMEA transformer failed on Garnet Mesa, cutting power to about 6,700 customers in Cedaredge, Hotchkiss, Olathe and points in between. Because of shared transmission lines, the city was also affected. Within an hour of the outage, the ML&P plant was on line generating electricity for the city. That removed pressure from the DMEA grid and helped crews make their repairs.
Once the transmission project — a joint venture between Tri-State, DMEA and the city — is completed, the chances of an outage of that magnitude will be reduced dramatically. Still, council members feel more comfortable having a backup in place.
After weighing the options presented by Glammeyer, they decided to put the four largest engines on emergency status and keep the three smaller, older engines — which do not require retrofitting — on the MEAN contract.
That option allows the city to run the generators for an indefinite amount of time during an emergency and decreases the time and cost to maintain the plant, Glammeyer said. Operation of the ML&P facility currently runs $127,000 year; under the approved option operating costs will drop to $68,200.
Some investment will be needed to make two of the engines more reliable, and the city will be able to sell just $6,300 of power (as opposed to $86,400) to MEAN, but the expense of retrofitting the four larger engines will be saved, at least for now. City council members said they would like to see those engines brought up to RICE standards as funds become available.
Glammeyer said a proposed amendment to the RICE rules may help offset the expense of retrofitting. The emergency status generators can be run for 50 hours a year for testing and heating the cooling water. Under the proposed amendment, the generators could be run for 100 hours, which could reduce the amount of power the city purchases from MEAN. Over four years, Glammeyer said the city could save $400,000.blog comments powered by Disqus