GREELEY — An energy company that owns and operates 56 solar-, wind– and gas-generation projects in 22 states is taking the first steps toward reactivating a gas-fired power plant in Greeley that has been mothballed since 2011 and which it claims could provide power to 36,000 average-sized Greeley homes when running at full 40-megawatt capacity.
Onward Energy, which formed through the merger of Southwest Generation and Novatus Energy in 2021 and which has offices in Denver, New York and Charlotte, North Carolina, has submitted documents and held a pre-application meeting with Greeley city planners about reactivating the Thermo Greeley power plant, 846 N. Sixth Ave. The company already has nearly 500 megawatts of operating projects in Colorado, of which all but 20 megawatts are solar- and gas-generation assets.
City planner Meg Oren, who hosted a virtual meeting with company officials in July, characterized the session as “informational” and said no permits have yet been sought.
According to documents submitted to city planners, Onward said it “has the financial capability to place the project into commercial operation with or without external financing.” It said it recently signed a letter of intent with “a local electric cooperative, leading to a strong chance of entering into a 30-year tolling agreement.” However, Onward officials would not confirm the identity of the co-op to BizWest, and officials of United Power and the Platte Valley Rural Electric Association declined to confirm whether they had been contacted by Onward.
Onward’s intention, it said, is to redevelop and repower the cogeneration plant in Greeley that has been inactive for 12 years and essentially abandoned since Onward acquired it in 2021 from Allegany Generating Station LLC.
Twenty years ago, when it was owned by Kinder Morgan Power Co., the plant won an Energy Star award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its efficiency. A news release from Kinder Morgan at the time noted that “the design of the Greeley plant requires 25% less fuel than using a combination of on-site thermal generation and purchased electricity.” The thermal energy produced by the plant was purchased by Swift & Co., and the electricity produced by its natural gas-fired turbine was sold to Xcel energy under a long-term contract.
Other than the existing plant, Onward proposes to add a concrete foundation for new equipment on a grassy area encompassing less than a tenth of an acre adjacent to the building.
It cited a 2021 report from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association that predicted that “both global and domestic demand for electric power will increase through 2050. Renewables are predicted to eventually shoulder most of the necessary power generation, but natural gas will remain a critical electric resource. Despite the ongoing retirement of numerous coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants, a significant amount of solar, wind and new natural-gas facilities will be needed. Given continuous non-interruptible power needs that can’t be met by intermittent renewable resources, new natural-gas power will continue to play a crucial role with the increasing demand for electricity.”
Onward said the project, if activated, would “provide a significant boost for the electric grid in Greeley, helping with curtailment issues and enhancing grid reliability.”
Because the property falls within the Industrial-Medium zoning designation, Onward said no zoning changes or amendments would be required, noting that the project is already an approved use for its zone and is located in a “highly industrial area, with a meat-packing facility and other oil and gas operations on properties adjacent to the site.”
Onward retained Solas Energy to evaluate the potential permits, approvals, and requirements as well as prepare a permitting matrix and schedule based on a review of applicable local, state, and federal permitting guidance, ordinances, and regulations. Although the plant already has an existing air permit that Onward presumes to be valid, it hired Atmospheric Dynamics as the lead environmental consultant to gather information for its anticipated dealings with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Onward’s application said it intended to reuse the majority of the plant’s existing infrastructure, including interconnection, and that the interconnection process with Xcel, acting as Public Service Company of Colorado, for repowering the project was kicked off on May 1 with a Phase 1 study estimated to conclude this year.
According to its application, “the project can be described as in mid-stage development with a planned commercial operation date of January 2026. However, Oren said no formal application presentation has been scheduled.
At the July virtual meeting with Onward officials, Oren cited the need for upgrades since the site has sat unattended for some time, as well as the requirements for local and state permitting, floodplain analysis and landscape plans.
“The well-being of the local community is always a priority wherever Onward is invested,” the company said in its pre-application proposal. “The company prides itself on being a contributor to the local economy, and every year the firm awards thousands of dollars in additional scholarships to students in local communities where our facilities are located. Onward Energy recognizes that effective management of environmental, social and governance issues can have a significant impact on the long-term operational performance of the company in terms of delivering reliable energy to our customers, the well-being of associates and communities, the safeguarding of the environment, access to capital, and the growth of the business.”