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GEM energy enthusiasts visit Xcel’s most efficient coal-fired power plant

February 18, 2013
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On the left is tour guide Renee Trujillo, an engineer who worked on Comanche Station’s expansion.

A wide variety of nearly 30 energy enthusiasts, with connections to GEM, recently toured Comanche Station, Xcel Energy’s most efficient coal-fired power plant. Led by Renee Trujillo, an engineer who worked on the station’s expansion, the tour gave these energy professionals an up-close experience of the mechanics behind power generation as well as insight into streamlining the power plants of tomorrow.

Ian Jaeger, a member of the Global Energy Management Program’s Cohort 8 who participated in tour in Pueblo, said that although he is opposed to using coal for electricity, he is happy with the progress being made by the utility company.

“I was curious about Comanche Station because coal gets a bad rep for being dirty, but this site is supposed to be one of the newer installations with much of the touted ‘clean coal’ technology,” Jaeger said. “As someone interested in energy efficiency and demand side management, it’s important to understand where the base load comes from and how it works. I’m also a sucker for big, heavy industry.”

Xcel’s website describes Comanche as a coal-fired, steam-electric generating station with three operating units. It is Colorado’s first advanced, highly efficient, supercritical coal unit that can generate more electricity with less fuel.

Dave Banko, owner of Banko Petroleum Management, Inc. and a member of the GEM Advisory Council, said he was impressed by the new, state-of-the-art electric generating power plant technology.

“I liked seeing the advances in generating efficiency and effluent control that have been implemented with the new unit and with the retrofit of the old unit,” Banko said.

Comanche saves customers money because it displaces higher cost electric generating units and reduces the need to purchase additional electricity from other sources. It is the first power plant in Colorado to control mercury emissions.7

Jaeger enjoyed seeing the new air cooling system that is used for the majority of the steam cooling in plant 3 and the impact on water usage at the site. In light of this improvement, he said he believes that the site could still improve its efficiency.

“I was surprised, and saddened, by the lack of energy efficiency in the systems on site,” Jaeger said. “For example, they kept the internal facility very brightly lit, well beyond what OSHA/MSHA would require … Our guide even mentioned how much of the electricity went right back into the facility and it was rather disheartening to see such waste right alongside all of the highly efficient new equipment.”

Brian Carroll, a member of GEM’s Cohort 8 and manager at the oil & gas consulting firm Carroll Resources LLC, was amazed by how large and complex the plant was and convinced that others would benefit from tours like this.

“It is one thing to read and study about the process of electrical generation and it is another thing to see the process in action and to realize the scope and complexity of the process and operation,” he said. “It is also important to recognize the capital commitment made to facilitate our power usage and complexities of modification and change.”

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Pete Baston

Pete Baston, CEO at IDEAS Energy Technology Integration, also enjoyed the tour.

“I just love to tour energy systems,” he said, “and see the hub of the real world power systems all types, nothing quite like the majesty of these things in action and imagining what the world was like before.”

Baston appreciated the professional connections that were made that day between the GEM students, environmentalists, and Xcel Energy guides.

“I enjoyed standing next to the generator, feeling its pulse, wondering where all the energy is going and how it would change the lives of people who got it.”Comanche 3

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