New Hayden Station plant manager settling in |

New Hayden Station plant manager settling in

— Gary Gilleland knows why he chose a career in the utility industry, specifically power plants.

“It is extremely challenging, and there is a tremendous amount to learn,” said Gilleland, whose official first day as the new Hayden Station manager was Monday. “In almost 30 years of working in plants, I’ve never met someone who knows it all.”

Gilleland’s duties include overseeing a staff of nearly 100 Xcel Energy employees. It is his responsibility to ensure that the coal-fired power station is running efficiently and cleanly, he said.

Gilleland, 49, began working in power plants after high school. He first was a janitor and moved on to become an operator, mechanic and welder. He has moved up the ladder considerably since then, and today he is the director for one of the cleanest coal-fired plants in the region.

The plant can produce 446 megawatts of electricity. In temperate weather conditions, that is enough electricity to power nearly 500,000 homes.

On Monday, he said he felt restrained early in his career because he did not have a college degree. He wanted to become a manager. At 32, he decided to go back to school to earn his mechanical engineering degree from Texas Tech University. He worked full time while attending most of school, and he earned his degree in seven years.

“I actually took a couple courses with my oldest daughter,” Gilleland said.

After spending his entire life in Texas, Gilleland and his wife, Amy, moved to Colorado in 2003. Gilleland brought his thick Texas accent to Fort Morgan, where he worked as a maintenance manager at the Pawnee Station. He moved to Craig last year and started work at Hayden Station as the operations manager. On Monday, he officially took over the director job from Frank Roitsch, who retired.

Gilleland said he got into the utility business because of the challenges it presents, and those clearly exist at Hayden Station.

Xcel, which operates and partially owns the plant, is trying to find a way to bring coal to the plant with trains, rather than trucking it in from Twentymile Mine, owned by Peabody Coal.

The company is struggling to find the preferred alternative for the rail line, but none of the options is ideal, Xcel officials have said. Alternatives include laying the rail through the property of longtime landowners. There also are environmental concerns with some of the options.

Gilleland thinks he will play an important role in the process.

“I definitely see that we have a responsibility to do what’s best for the plant to be a low-cost provider for our customers, but at the same time, there is a responsibility to stay on good terms with the community and the neighbors,” Gilleland said. “We really do put an emphasis on being active with the community, as well as our neighbors.”

Safety at the plant is a constant concern.

“It can be a dangerous place to work,” he said.

At power plants across Colorado, there have been 10 accidents this year, compared with four this time last year, Gilleland said. On Monday, he was preparing letters to be sent to the plant’s employees reminding them to be safe.

“I’ve never worked for a company that emphasizes safety as much as Xcel,” he said.

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail

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