Aaron Larson, Power
Public perceptions can make or break a project. One municipal utility found that out firsthand. When resistance grew strong against a new power plant it needed, the company rebooted and engaged with local stakeholders in a transparent decision-making process. The result was a successful new plant that truly captures the essence of the community and provides benefits beyond electricity.
All power companies perform periodic analysis of electric system demands and try to predict how things will change over time. The results are used to develop resource plans and make decisions concerning new generating plants and other assets. Often, the work is done behind the scenes and reports are reviewed in board rooms by company decision-makers. Choices may be debated internally, but for the most part, people outside of the company hierarchy are not part of the process.
The Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW)—a municipal utility that provides electric, water, wastewater, and broadband services to the City of Holland, Michigan, and the surrounding area—was going down a similar path several years ago. Its James De Young coal-fired facility had three operational units that were nearing their end-of-life. Constructed in 1953, 1960, and 1968, respectively, the units were facing significant environmental regulation changes that would have required investments in the tens of millions of dollars to keep them operational. The power was still needed, so HBPW did its due diligence and decided to pursue an 80-MW coal-fired replacement with circulating fluidized bed technology.