Letter: Better investment awaits
Thank you for reporting on our county commissioners’ support for an Xcel gas plant in western Colorado. As coal continues to phase out of our energy portfolio it’s important to plan ahead for what we will replace it with, and I thank our commissioners for doing so.
But, they should take a serious look at current energy and economic opportunities before putting all their support behind a natural gas power plant at a time when solar and wind are becoming more competitive than ever, and natural gas is making less and less economic sense.
Last year, Xcel asked for bid proposals to replace electricity from their retiring coal plant with up to 1,000 megawatts of wind, 700MW of solar and 700MW gas-powered electric, and they received unprecedented bids for solar and wind projects (about 10 times as many megawatts as gas). The exciting news was that bids for building new solar with battery storage and wind with battery storage came out between 3 cents and 3.6 cents per kilowatt hour. Recent reports show electricity generation from natural gas turbines comes out around 4.2 cents/kilowatt hour.
The commissioners are asking for the gas plant as part of a state effort to create a market for the gas produced here because of the challenges posed by low prices and “peaks and valleys” associated with the industry. But solar and wind at increasingly competitive prices can offer solutions to those problems along with jobs and infrastructure, and an economic and environmental sustainability that oil and gas cannot.
The Garfield County commissioners should be pushing for Xcel to build new wind and solar on the Western Slope because of the benefits we stand to gain from it.