Big natural gas plant expansion in the works for SRP; environmentalists question move

Environmentalists say the plan moves SRP in the opposite direction of its climate goals, but SRP officials contend it will help its renewable efforts./Coolidge plant/SRP

By Ryan Randazzo | Arizona Republic

Salt River Project is planning a nearly $1 billion expansion at a Coolidge natural-gas burning power plant that officials say is necessary to maintain reliability on the Phoenix power grid.

The Coolidge Generating Station would more than double, with 16 new generators added through the expansion. The quick starting generators can react to fluctuations on the grid, including intermittent power from renewable sources like solar and wind.

Environmentalists say the investment in gas plants moves the utility in the opposite direction of its climate goals, but SRP officials said the gas plants are needed to help integrate more intermittent solar and wind on the grid.

The Power Committee of the SRP board approved the deal on Tuesday, with a cap on expenses at $953 million, which officials said was in case the project costs more than the $830 million estimate. It will need an affirmative vote from the full board to proceed.

“The primary driver is the significant near-term growth we are seeing,” said Grant Smedley, director of resource planning, acquisition and development for the utility.

SRP is pursuing additional solar, battery and even a new wind project, he said, and the company still plans to hit its target of reducing carbon emissions 65% in 2035 and by 90% in 2050 when compared with 2005 levels.

SRP also plans to add 2,025 megawatts of new solar from large power plants by 2025, plus substantial capacity from large, utility-scale batteries. A megawatt of power is about enough electricity to supply 250 homes at once.

“We are pursuing an all-of-the-above energy strategy,” Smedley said.


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August 2021