The head of Nebraska Public Power District says the Sheldon Power Station at Hallam may soon have to be retired.
NPPD president Pat Pope says the Gerald Gentleman facility at Sutherland is also coal-fired, but it’s in much better condition.
“Sheldon really is a bit on the bubble,” Pope says. “Sheldon is an older plant than Gentleman is, it’s not as efficient as Gentlemen is, it’s not as big as Gentleman is and its generation costs are higher.”
Despite its many negatives, Pope says the Sheldon plant is still doing its part to generate much-needed power.
“This summer, when we had the tremendous drought and heat, I was very glad we still had Sheldon Station online and operating for us,” Pope says. “It did play a key role. While this scenario talks about potentially retiring Sheldon, that’s probably not going to be in our near-term plan.”
With the volatile weather pattern threating to bring more drought in 2013 and perhaps beyond, Pope says it’s not yet clear where wholesale power rates may go in the future.
“I want to see what the next few summers bring us,” Pope says. “I’ve been hoping we might see some moisture this winter, this spring, but that’s not happening. I’m very concerned we might see some irrigation start up in the first part of April. We’re going to see some of our agricultural customers have to irrigate before they plant anything in the ground just to get things to germinate.”
Pope says any changes in environmental regulations at the federal level will play a part in whether some coal-fired plants continue operating. He says the district’s proposed resources plan could include the addition of natural gas-fired facilities in the future, much like the combined-cycle plant NPPD operates near Beatrice.
Sheldon is coal-fired but it once had a small nuclear reactor. It was ordered decommissioned in 1964 by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice