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GVEA Board Voices Concerns, But OKs Spending up to $20 Million to Fix Healy 2

Tim Ellis/KUAC

Golden Valley Electric Association’s board of directors approved a multimillion-dollar plan Monday to repair the Healy 2 power plant. Two board members voted against the proposal, saying they’ve got concerns about the coal-fired plant design and cost.

Most of the board members in Monday’s meeting expressed concerns over the problem-plagued Healy 2 power plant. But only two voted against a management proposal to spend up to $20 million  to repair the system that feeds coal into the powerplant’s boiler.

Tom DeLong told his fellow directors that he’s concerned about the unproven technology built into the 50-megawatt facility, which he says is the only one of its kind.

“Everyone knows I’m not a fan of coal,” he said, “but what I’m really voting against is the technology.”

DeLong also says he’s disappointed with the contractor GVEA hired to evaluate the system.

Director Gary Newman also voted against the measure. But he and DeLong both declined to talk about their votes on tape after the meeting.

Newman says board members were concerned about the $175 million Golden Valley has spent on Healy 2 since buying it from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority in 2013. The plant ran for about eight months before it was shut down in March of 2016 after an explosion caused by a buildup of coal dust in the plant’s coal-handling system. It was restarted after GVEA spent another million dollars in repairs, then shut down again in November after another smaller explosion. 

Credit KUAC file photo
The coal-fired Healy 2 powerplant was built in the mid-1990s with federal funding at a cost of about $300 million as a sort of demonstration project to showcase "clean coal" technology. It failed initial testing, and after more than $175 million in additional spending by GVEA, it remains out of service.

The resolution approved by the board Monday authorizes spending up to $20 million to fix that problem. Newman says Golden Valley increased its initial $10 million estimate for the project last week after getting more information about scope of work required to get the power plant operational.

Hollis Hall, who sits on the utility’s Member Advisory Committee, told the board that some GVEA’s ratepayers also have concerns over Healy 2.

“Most of the members just wonder when we’ll be able to get Healy 2 on board,” he said. “It’s taken a long time.”

Hall said in an interview after the meeting that members want Healy 2 up and going because they believe the coal-fired electricity it would generate will reduce their monthly bills.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.