By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
The Tucumcari Generating Station was officially dedicated Friday with ceremonies, a luncheon, speeches and a plant tour.
About 100 invited guests participated in the dedication activities. The guest list included local business and government leaders, Xcel Energy executives, and managers from different companies who oversaw the $20-million facility installation project.
The plant, which can generate up to 23 megawatts of power at any given time, is designed to match and exceed Tucumcari’s electricity demand in case power to the city is cut off, Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves said.
Xcel operators may also activate the plant to help meet regional electric load on days when electricity demand is very high, Reeves said. Meanwhile, except for occasional testing, the plant will not operate. When needed, the plant will be activated by remote control from the Nichols Generating Station near Amarillo, said Steve Nordyke, Nichols plant manager.
Kent Larson, Xcel’s senior vice president of operations, said the plan that resulted in dismantling and moving the unit that is now the Tucumcari Generating Station resulted from “creative thinking” applied to the problem of achieving reliable service for the Tucumcari area.
The turbine, generator and other components that now make up the Tucumcari facility used to be Unit 6 at the Riverview Generating Station near Borger, north of Amarillo, according to Mark Barton, a manager at the Nichols Generating Station. The unit had been in service there since the mid-1970s. It had been idle during much of the 1980s and had returned to service as a remote-control operated plant in the mid-1990s.
It was a natural gas-fired unit in Texas, but now it runs on diesel fuel. Two 100,000 gallon fuel tanks on site will keep the plant operating for three days. If it has to operate longer than that, fuel will be trucked in, Barton said.
Alan Davidson, director of capital projects for Xcel in Amarillo, made special note of how the turbine and generator were transported on separate trips of 300 miles on state highways and county roads to get from Borger to Tucumcari.
The generator weighs in at 240,000 pounds or 120 tons, he said, and the turbine tips the scale at 100 tons.
Doug Powers, Tucumcari city manager, said the plant represents a $20-million investment in the community that is not only beneficial from the perspective of increased tax revenues, but also in retaining and attracting business.
“The new plant is in a great location near our existing industries, and it’s a great draw for future business that we hope to bring to the city,” Powers said. “We really appreciate Xcel Energy’s investment, and the way in which they went about it by talking to the community and considering our needs.”
Tucumcari is connected to Xcel’s electric grid by a single 115-kilovolt transmission line that runs from Clovis to Tucumcari, according to Riley Hill, president of the Southwest Public Service, the Xcel subsidiary that serves eastern New Mexico and Texas Panhandle areas.
If that line is cut off — as it was in June 2011 — Tucumcari could lose power for an extended period, he said, and that’s why the power plant was installed in Tucumcari. The plant’s interconnections are designed to allow the plant to operate without synchronizing to the rest of the Xcel grid in case of a power outage, but to link with the grid if the plant is used to meet heavy electricity demand on the whole Xcel system, Hill said.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially dedicated the plant to service, Tucumcari Mayor Amiel Curnutt doing the honors, Joe Barkley, the plant’s start-up manager, conducted tours. He guided visitors through the exciter, which gets the starter motor going, to the turbine, which the starter motor activates into spinning.
The turbine spins the generator, which produces the electricity. Barkley also explained the sophisticated instruments that monitor and regulate the plant’s operations, as well as the air circulation system, which provides air for combustion and vents heated air to keep the plant cool.
Tucumcari Generating Station dedicated
By Steve Hansen