Cameo plant production coming to end

More than a half-century of power production at Xcel’s Cameo power plant will come to an end Friday.

Unit 1 of the coal-fired power plant, built in 1957, powered down Tuesday. Unit 2, opened in 1960, and a temporary solar power installation connected to the plant will shut off at the end of the work week.

The plant employed about 30 employees last year and has had 23 employees since this summer, when operations began to wind down in preparation for the plant’s closure, according to Xcel Western Slope Area Manager Fred Eggleston. Employees are either retiring or moving on to other Xcel plants in Colorado, he said.

A contractor has yet to be selected to tear down the buildings. A date for demolition to begin has not been selected either, but environmental remediation will take place at the plant prior to that time, Eggleston said. Whoever does strip the plant will be advised by a “caretaker crew” of former plant employees to keep the process safe and minimize environmental impacts, he said.

For now, the shutdown will include draining water and other fluids from Units 1 and 2 and collecting mineral oil drained from the solar installation. Eggleston said a decision has not been made about what will happen to the solar project, which began operating in concert with the plant earlier this year to test an integrated solar and coal plant concept.

The Cameo site will not be completely barren; all substations at Cameo will remain operational.

Xcel received approval in 2008 from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to close the Cameo plant in 2010 and shut down another coal-fired plant in Denver at the end of 2012. Xcel proposed the idea as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from their facilities as a whole.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter set a goal of reducing the state’s carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent before 2020.

A bill proposed by Mesa County lawmakers aimed at keeping the Cameo plant open as a solar-coal hybrid at least through next summer failed earlier this year in the Legislature.

As for what else the Cameo site may be used for, Eggleston said it’s too soon to tell.

“We’re evaluating a lot of different options. We’re not in a big hurry because we need to get through the tear down first, then we’ll start working on the future,” he said.


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