Golden Valley Electric Association’s board of directors voted Monday to upgrade the aging Healy Unit 1 power plant with a new pollution-control system and keep it operating. But in a surprise decision, the board also decided to shut down the newer Healy Unit 2 power plant, because they said it was unreliable and becoming increasingly costly.
For months now, Golden Valley officials have talked about the difficult decision on whether to install a new emissions-control device on the 55-year-old coal-fired Healy 1 power plant or shut it down by the end of 2024. Until Monday night, that is, when a expert hired by the utility said his analysis suggested a third alternative: upgrade Healy 1 and shut down Healy 2, the newer coal-fired plant that’s been problem-plagued since it began commercial operation four years ago.
“It is more economic to retire Healy 2,” said Mike Hubbard, a utility consultant with Anchorage-based Financial Engineering Company. He’s been working for Golden Valley over the past year since it began a study of its power-generating facilities.
In a presentation to the board Monday, Hubbard said he was hired to advise on the Healy 1 decision and replacement of the co-op’s Battery Energy Storage System, or BESS. But he said it soon became apparent that advances in renewable-energy technology, especially wind power, could solve both problems and provide another source to replace the 50-megawatt Healy 2.