Grant PUD Plans to Curb Power Woesby Lynne Lynch
Columbia Basin Herald, June 3, 2010
EPHRATA — With the area's growth, Grant County PUD expects to run out of physical power to meet its load in the next few years.
The utility is considering building a $511 million natural gas plant in the Wheeler Corridor area near Moses Lake.
This could provide the PUD with another energy source other than hydropower.
"What we're trying to do is reserve options for the district," Grant PUD General Manager Tim Culbertson told the Columbia Basin Herald. "Whether that means buying energy in the marketplace, investing in wind or solar, or other generation resources. ... What we're trying to do, is to position Grant (PUD) to be in a stronger position to meet our energy requirements, whatever they are."
In 2009, the utility bought roughly $55 million worth of energy on the open market, according to Sarah Morford, a PUD spokesperson.
From that, the district received about $32 million as a financial benefit and was reimbursed through a power sales contract.
Roughly $23 million remained, which Grant PUD purchased to meet its needs.
The district then made $33 million in sales and was left with a positive figure of $9 million in net wholesale.
"We haven't made a recommendation to proceed with that project," she commented. "We still think it's cheaper to go to market than to build a facility. The recommendation is not to move forward in the near term. This is long-term power planning."
Grant PUD wouldn't need the entire project and would likely seek project partners.
The district has spoken with Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative and Chelan County PUD, Culbertson explained.
Other public utilities expressed interest in project, but Grant PUD has received no commitments.
The district also has no commitment from the board to move ahead, Culbertson said.
Plant construction would not start by the end of the year.
The building would be a five- to six-year process from start to finish, he said, but the district would like to have preliminary work done in advance.
Grant PUD has also considered nuclear power to help meet its demands.
The commission is pronuclear and passed a resolution stating it believes in nuclear power.
In 2009, the district agreed to participate in a study with Energy Northwest and other Northwest utilities to examine the possibility of building a small scale-modular nuclear plant at Hanford.
The study was done to determine feasibility and the idea was ruled out.
Terry Morlan, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's director of power planning, said the district has a contract for the Nine Canyon Wind Project and is making incremental improvements to its hydro project.
Hydro and wind power are variable resources.
"Having a resource that could help fill in would be useful, to be able to back up those resources in a bad water year, or when wind isn't blowing like you need it," Morlan says.
"I know their loads have grown a lot," Morlan commented.
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