Xcel Ponders $500M Clean-Coal Plant

Xcel Ponders $500M Clean-Coal Plant

Thursday, August 17th 2006

BP isn’t the only energy company seeking green in “green.”

Xcel Energy on Tuesday said it will invest $3.5 million through 2007, devoted to planning the development of a $500 million “clean coal” plant in Colorado.

Home-grown, cheaper than oil and commonly viewed as safer than nuclear power, coal’s drawback is of course its emissions. The plant proposed by Xcel would utilize Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology to capture carbon dioxide and inject it underground, sparing lungs and atmosphere alike.

Richard C. Kelly, president, chairman and chief executive of Xcel, declared in a statement that “the development and commercial operation of clean-coal technology is needed in Colorado and throughout our nation.”

He added: “We want to lead the effort to demonstrate that this technology works using western coal at high altitude.”

Western coal bears more moisture and possesses less inherent heat potential, so it takes a greater amount of the carboniferous substance to create the same amount of as coal mined in the eastern U.S.

And such a “clean coal” plant can cost 10% to 20% more to build than a standard plant — but potential IGCC benefits include being able to circumnavigate having to install emission-control devices.

The company said late next year it will file with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to have the project approved. The facility would serve the electricity needs of up to 350,000 homes in Colorado — and perhaps blaze the trail for dozens of new coal-based power plants slated for the Western U.S.

An Xcel spokesman said the company seeks some of the $500 million plant cost from federal funding put aside specifically for high-altitude Western coal uses, and some from prospective partners. The firm says it has begun talks with various utilities.

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