Xcel Energy mulling several ideas for future of Hayden Station | SteamboatToday.com

Xcel Energy mulling several ideas for future of Hayden Station

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In a filing with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission last week, Xcel Energy Colorado said 80% of energy used by consumers would come from renewable sources by 2030.

The filing has been anticipated for months, especially after the company unveiled its Clean Energy Plan in February saying it would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 85% by 2030, when compared to 2005 levels, making it the “largest, most aggressive and most-climate driven” proposal in the Xcel’s history.

The plan represents a dramatic turn away from coal-based energy for the company and incorporates the closing of several coal-fired plants in Colorado. Two of those generators are at the Hayden Station, one is in Craig, and another is near Pueblo. The company has insisted there will not be layoffs when closing these plants.

Maintaining employees is a good thing, but for towns like Hayden where a large majority — about 60% — of the property tax revenue generated for schools, cemeteries and fire protection comes from the power plant, replacing that is a daunting task.

Hayden Town Manager Matt Mendisco said Xcel has meetings planned with various stakeholders in Northwest Colorado, including Hayden, this week to discuss some of the options laid out by the utility last week.

“I think the exciting thing is that they are considering multiple asset type of replacements within the Hayden Station,” Mendisco said. “It is clear that the Hayden area, and to an extent the south Routt (County) area, will be the most affected in both jobs and property taxes.”

One of the most important things for people to consider throughout this process, Mendisco said, is that it will take a long time.

As of now, things are going according to plan, and Mendisco said he wants the town to be a leader in what changes will come. Xcel has been a willing partner in these talks, he said, and has been very open with local leaders about its plans.

Early on in the discussions, there was talk of potentially refitting the plant to generate power with natural gas, Mendisco said, similar to what Xcel has done with other plants and to what the company will do with the Pawnee Generating Station in Fort Morgan. That facility will be converted to natural gas by 2028.

But in the filing last week, Xcel said converting to natural gas is not an option in Hayden because there is not enough existing gas pipeline infrastructure in the region. The area’s geography also does not lend itself to large scale solar or wind power projects, company officials said.

In testimony submitted with the filing, Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy Colorado, said there are two ways to assist communities as they deal with the accelerated closing of a power plant. One option is a cash payout to a community, giving them a “nest egg” to use at its discretion in transition efforts.

“The other way, broadly speaking, is to develop sustainable longer-term strategies to make the community whole over time,” Jackson said. “I subscribe to this latter notion for our host communities when we accelerate the retirement of generating units.”

The filing said the company is exploring other carbon-free redevelopment options at Hayden, such as molten salt storage, biomass, solar electrolysis and parks and wildlife space.

“We’ve talked about recreational facilities out there. We have talked about several things,” Mendisco said. “It is exciting that it is not going to be a flat piece of dirt, and we are going to have to shore up 60% of our property taxes.”

Routt County Commissioner Tim Redmond said representatives from Xcel have talked about having a campus approach when redeveloping the Hayden Station, potentially pursuing several different energy options. He said the company has presented a wide variety of potential ideas for the site.

Redmond specifically asked Xcel to present more to him about the potential for molten salt storage, which is an efficient way to retain heat gathered from sources, like the sun, that can be then used with turbines to produce energy. Other potential ideas have been to partner with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to use the pond currently storing water for the power plant as a fish hatchery, he said.

Redmond said Xcel always talked about asset management, which to him shows its commitment for the future of the community. He said this is an encouraging sign for the process going forward to not just replace what will be lost when both generators are shuttered by 2028 but to have this be an overall benefit for the local economy.

“My hopes are that in the end of this we may wind up with more employees up there than we have now,” Redmond said. “This may be a door opening to the future.”

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