Colorado Springs Utilities is moving forward with plans to retire the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant and replace it with six individual gas-powered GE turbines.

Eric Gray, CEO of GE Gas Power, said the units are expected to arrive by the end of the year. As part of the transition, CSU will also expand the Kelker Substation, located along South Academy Boulevard, between Hancock Expressway and Astrozon Boulevard.

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Latrina Ollie and Sharise George of Be the Change 719 organized a cleanup near the Kelker Substation.

The expansion will utilize the empty lot in between the existing Kelker Substation and the McDonald's at Astrozon Boulevard. The lot has been a frequent site for community cleanup efforts in the last year, and is regularly filled with litter and debris. 

“Kelker is our substation that has many lines coming and going out of that station,” said Aram Benyamin, the CEO of CSU during a press conference Feb. 10. “When we built the station we built it to a certain configuration. We have to expand that capacity. We have many assets we’ll add to it: a new line, a high voltage position that we’ll add, a transformer, and we will build in redundancy into the system, adding breakers into the substation. It is a critical station we want to make sure it has state of the art technology and capacity to maneuver the flow of power as we expand the city. Kelker is a critical substation and we want to invest capital and design it properly so we don’t have any constriction issues there.”

Construction is expected to begin in September 2021, with the expansion complete by December 2025. Starting Feb. 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services will begin a prairie dog mitigation program, setting live trap to capture prairie dogs for euthanasia. After euthanasia, the prairie dogs will be donated to a wildlife rehabilitation center for food for injured wildlife.

Prairie Dog Area

Prairie Dog Area

After the trapping period, expected to last through Feb. 24, CSU will treat the  remaining burrows with aluminum phosphide and seal them. CSU has said there is no risk of secondary poisoning of raptors or other predators, nor will the public be at risk. A temporary 3.5 foot fence will be in place during the trapping period.

The transition away from a coal-powered plant will help CSU meet its goal of an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. Benyamin says the transition will also lead to savings for CSU rate-payers.

“That savings allows us to do projects that we would otherwise use ratepayers to do,” he said. “We’re seeing a reduction in our operating costs by switching to gas.”

 

Heidi Beedle is a former soldier, educator, activist, and animal welfare worker. She received a Bachelor’s in English from UCCS. She has worked as a freelance writer covering LGBTQ issues, nuclear disasters, cattle mutilations, and social movements.