Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Easier Access: Authority Starts New Power Plant, despite Federal Pollution Rules

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Easier Access: Authority Starts New Power Plant, despite Federal Pollution Rules

Article excerpt

BLACKWELL - Tightening federal air pollution rules make it difficult to build a fossil-fueled power plant from the ground up. Until recently, the last one in Oklahoma was the Redbud combined- cycle natural gas plant completed in 2005 near Luther.

The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, however, recently completed a new natural gas power plant near Blackwell, on time and under budget. The agency had all of the right cards in place to make it happen, University of Tulsa energy law professor Gary Allison said.

The OMPA's 103-megawatt combustion turbine peaker plant will help meet growing demand from its 41 member cities through 2021, Director of Member Services Drake Rice said. The power plant was built near Blackwell on land with no existing electrical generation. The site has enough room to add combined-cycle equipment, improving the plant's energy efficiency and increasing electrical output.

A peaker plant provides additional power when demand is highest.

The Charles D. Lamb Energy Center was completed on May 16, just 15 months after construction began. Power was dispatched the next day, Rice said.

Electricity providers need to build power plants close to demand, to minimize transmission line costs. Yet finding open space near sprawling metropolitan areas is difficult. Oklahoma Gas & Electric has a plan to update one power plant in Mustang, in part because the 1950s-era facility is near its customers.

The OMPA owned land near a populated area, near electrical transmission lines and natural gas pipelines. Because it's a municipal authority and not an investor-owned utility, the agency isn't required to ask the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to raise utility rates, so it can pass along the capital costs to its members, Allison said.

It's easier for the authority to secure financing, too. The OMPA isn't required to show it has financing to back the power plant's construction costs. …

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