Equipment failure delays plant start-up

Mechanical issues push back start at the Prairie State power plant in Marissa, Ill.


ISS SourceAn equipment failure will lead to further delays at the Prairie State power plant in Marissa, Ill.

Mechanical delays have caused the start up to push back to the end of this year for the first of two 800 MW coal fired generators, said Coldwater Board of Public Utilities (CBPU) Director Paul Beckhusen, also a member of the American Municipal Power (AMP) board. CBPU partially owns the plant and AMP is supervising construction.

Beckhusen said it is possible the second unit could go online before the first. Now in a regulatory filing, AMP said one of the plant’s large fans suffered damage on March 27, 2012.

“The extent of damage and root cause analysis is under way,” the company reported. Because they don’t know why the fan failed, this latest delay could push the completion of the plant into late 2012. According to the filing this would be about a year later than original completion date of last December.

Because it remains uncertain why the fan failed, the second unit also shut down until officials complete the analysis. The fan is a key element for reducing air emissions which will make this coal plant one of the least polluting in operation.

The main contractor, Bechtel Corp., will need 10 to 12 weeks to obtain the critical parts for the repair. It will also require up to 30 weeks for other unique parts AMP stated in the filing. Repair time would add another six weeks, the report stated.

Estimates show the project is several billion dollars over budget but in AMP’s agreement with Bechtel, the contractor owes damages for each week the plant is late. There is also a cap on budget overruns that AMP must pay.

Coldwater has contracted for 9.8 MW of power from Prairie State which it expects online next summer. It does not need the capacity until the summer of 2015 when long-term power purchase contracts end. By then, its peak demand should increase to 59.4 MW of power.

The only other member of the Michigan South Central Power Agency (MSCPA) to purchase an interest in Prairie States is Marshall which agreed to take 1.99 MW.

While there are Midwest power companies who own interest in the plant, AMP purchased 23% for its members when it took over construction and operations. A number of Illinois municipalities and rural eclectic co-ops also are showing interest in the power.

Funds to pay off the bonds used for construction and operational costs will come from electric rates of those who own an interest or buy the output.

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