Omaha Public Power District said it plans to delay the retirement of North Omaha Station (NOS) units 1-3 and fuel conversion of units 4 and 5 from low-sulfur coal to natural gas.

The public power provider said the delay is only until the utility’s new natural gas generation balancing stations are fully approved for grid interconnection service by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and administered by the Southwest Power Pool.

“This is one of those moments where we need to slow down our present path to achieve our future goals,” said OPPD President and CEO Javier Fernandez. 

OPPD’s board previously had approved that the changes occur by the end of 2023, when the new natural gas generation balancing stations – Standing Bear Lake (SBLS) and Turtle Creek (TCS) — were planned to come online. Grid interconnection delays are blamed for the revised schedule. The new natural gas-fired power plants are now expected to enter service by 2026. 

The new capacity includes two simple cycle combustion turbines and six to nine reciprocating engines. 

The utility’s Power with Purpose plan aims to bring around 1,200 MW of new natural gas and solar capability online. OPPD said that once the new gas-fired stations are online, it would look to retire North Omaha Station units 1-3 and refuel units 4-5 from low-sulfur coal to natural gas. 

In 2016, OPPD retired North Omaha units 1-3 from coal operations. Today, these units are available to run on natural gas, serving as peaking units. The station has a total generating capacity of 577.9 MW, according to OPPD.

SBLS and TCS are under construction now. However, the Southwest Power Pool must conduct a grid interconnection study before they can be connected to the grid. In addition, the two new natural gas generation projects have experienced what OIPPD said were “some siting and grading delays,” as well as supply chain issues. The new solar generation projects have also experienced challenges with siting of projects and supply chain challenges, including impacts from recent tariff and related trade actions.

OPPD said it secured in 2020 a slot in the SPP interconnection review schedule. At the time it expected the review process to take around 30 months. Since then, it said that the interconnection queue backlog has doubled the expected time to complete studies and transmission expansion options are being studied. SPP is not expected to complete the OPPD interconnection study before 2024. For planning purposes, OPPD said it will keep the coal-fired North Omaha Station on its books through 2026.

OPPD said that the delays will not affect its commitment to achieving net zero carbon by 2050.

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