GVEA Prepares to Restart Problem-plagued, Coal-fired Healy 2 Power Plant This Summer

Mar 5, 2018

Golden Valley Electric Association’s chief executive says repair work on the co-op’s problem-plagued Healy 2 powerplant should be completed next month. And if all goes well, President and CEO Cory Borgeson says the coal-fired powerplant will be restarted in May.

“We’re still saying it’s going to be done in April and ready to start up on oil in May,” he said.

The Healy 2 power plant, formerly known as the Healy Clean Coal Power Plant, was built in the 1990s as a $300 million federal demonstration project to show it could burn low-grade coal with relatively few emissions. It operated briefly in 1999 before being shut down. GVEA restarted in 2015 and operated it for seven months before shutting it down again in March 2016 to repair damage caused by an explosion in the plant’s coal-handling system.
Credit KUAC file photo

It’s standard practice to use diesel to restart a shut-down coal-fired powerplant. Also, says Borgeson, it’s important to carefully proceed, step-by-step, to restart a plant that’s been shut down for as long as Healy 2 has been idle.

“When you start up a plant that hasn’t run now for over a year, you’ve got all those systems that have to be tested and checked,” he said. “And you’re very careful to run it at a low levels to make sure everything is working before you really ramp it up.”

The 50-megawatt plant was last operated in 2016 for about seven months before Golden Valley shut it down in March of that year, after an explosion in the plant’s coal-handling system. The co-op spent about a million dollars to repair that damage, but halted an attempt to re-start the facility in November 2016 after another smaller blast in the same system, which feeds pulverized coal into a combustion chamber.

In August, Golden Valley’s board of directors authorized spending up to $20 million on the work that’s now under way at the plant. A Golden Valley spokeswoman says if all goes well, the co-op will transition Healy 2 to burn coal after about a week of burning diesel.

“There’s a lot of testing, and also a lot of testing for emissions, to make sure it’s meeting the emissions requirements,” he said.

If no further problems arise, the plant located near the town of Healy will be commissioned in August and begin full-power operation.

Golden Valley has spent more than $175 million on Healy 2 since buying it in 2013 for $44 million from the Alaska Industrial and Development Export Authority.