Two Units at Coal Power Plant Back Online Following Spring Fire

With Units 6 and 7 back in operation, Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) has restored 80% of the generation capacity at its Martin Drake Power Plant located in downtown Colorado Springs.

The plant was taken offline after sustaining significant damage during a May 5 fire. Most of the damage occurred in the area surrounding Unit 5, which is the smallest of the plant’s three coal-fired units.

Early assessments determined that, although electrical components had been damaged on Unit 6, its mechanical integrity was sound, which meant that it could be repaired in the least amount of time. On June 25, Unit 6 was returned to service producing about 30% of the plant’s total capacity.

“Unit 7 suffered the most damage to the turbine itself. It lost oil due to the fire and we lost oil to the bearings, so it came down running metal to metal,” David Osborne, maintenance superintendent, said in a video produced by CSU.

The fire had not only damaged the turbine though, it had damaged the overhead crane needed to disassemble equipment. With a generator rotor weighing 73,000 pounds and covers weighing as much as 52,000 pounds, an operational crane was a necessity. In order to continue repairs to Unit 7, a temporary crane system was installed.

Working around the clock, repairs were completed just 16 weeks after the devastating fire. On Aug. 25, Unit 7 was back online. According to CSU, Unit 7 is the second lowest cost provider of electricity in its system.

Repair work continues on Unit 5. It is expected to be back online next year.

“The outlook for Drake as a whole, I believe, is incredible. It’s got a long life left in it,” said Osborne.

“This plant is the heartbeat of Colorado Springs Utilities.”

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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