A Canadian energy company has announced plans to build a natural gas-fired generating station in Coolidge to serve the growing number of Salt River Project customers in the East Valley.
Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada, an operator of power plants, pipelines and natural gas storage centers, said Thursday the project could cost a half-billion dollars.
"We will develop, own and operate the plant, and Salt River Project would buy 100 percent of the output," said Peter Lund, TransCanada's vice president of power development.
The company is applying for permits from the Arizona Corporation Commission and Pinal County to build the plant, he said. Also being drawn up is a power-purchase agreement with SRP and purchase of the 100-acre site from Mesa, which acquired the land for its water rights in 1985.The Mesa City Council agreed to sell the land to TransCanada for $5.5 million in 2006.
If the project proceeds on schedule, it could be operating by mid-2011, Lund said.
Although permits and agreements are not yet in hand, TransCanada has started a public outreach program to try to win support for the plant. An open house to inform the public about the project is planned 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Coolidge Youth Center, 660 S. Main St.
The site was selected because it is near current and planned natural gas pipelines that could supply fuel, Lund said.
It's also next to a high-voltage transmission line that SRP is building to supply electricity to the East Valley.
Natural gas is cleaner burning than other fossil fuels, and the plant would comply with government emissions regulations, he said.
The plant would consist of 12 relatively small generators that together would produce 575 megawatts of electricity - about half the capacity of a single generator at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix. But they would operate differently from Palo Verde, which produces power steadily to meet basic demand from customers.
The Coolidge generators instead would be turned off and on frequently, operating during peak-use hours such as mid- to late afternoons during the summer when electricity use is greatest. Also they are designed for quick 10-minute start ups in emergencies if other power plants break down, Lund said.
John Coggins, SRP's manager of resource planning and development, said the Valley's rapid growth is leading to especially strong demand for electricity during peak hours, which he said starts at about 5 p.m. during late summer afternoons. That's when people are returning from work and turning up their air conditioners to cool their homes, he said.
To meet that demand, he said SRP planners are studying options for more peak-use plants, including building their own or buying the output of other plants operated by third parties.
"We have more of a need than this facility would meet," he said.