A Phoenix-based power plant developer has announced plans to build the first electric generating station in Arizona using advanced clean coal technology.
Southwest Power Group said the plant will convert coal to clean synthetic gas, then burn it to produce electricity.
The plant, which will be located near Bowie in southeast Arizona, will be cleaner than conventional coal-fired power plants while avoiding the price volatility of natural gas, said Ian Calkins, spokesman for Southwest Power Group.
“The plant was originally planned as a natural gas plant . . . but the market has changed in Arizona,” he said. “Coal is a more stable and secure power source, and (coal gasification) technology has advanced to point of being cost effective.”
The company hopes to obtain all regulatory permits by 2007, with construction to begin shortly thereafter and operation beginning in 2012.
Only two similar coal gasification power plants currently exist in the United States —one in Florida and the other in Indiana.
But with oil and natural gas prices soaring and with the U.S. possessing abundant coal reserves, interest is growing in technologies that convert coal to synthetic gas and liquid fuels.
The cost of the 600-megawatt Bowie Power Station has not been determined, but it’s certain the up-front construction cost will be several times greater than a conventional natural gas plant, Calkins said.
However, because coal is much cheaper than natural gas, the long-term operating costs will be less, and therefore the electricity can be produced at a competitive price, he said.
The company also is looking at the possibility of federal tax credits to help finance the plant, he said.
Negotiations are under way with potential customers, but so far no contracts have been signed to buy the output from the station, Calkins said.
Southwest Power Group has offered to supply electricity to Salt River Project from Bowie, and officials of the two organizations met two weeks ago to discuss the project, SRP spokesman Scott Harelson said.
It’s too soon for SRP to make any commitments, but the technology shows promise, he said.
“This is a very interesting and very ambitious project,” Harelson said.
The Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates Arizona utilities and would have to issue a certificate to build the plant, is interested in all renewable and clean technologies, said Chairman Jeff Hatch-Miller.
“We’re trying to find ways to generate electricity here in Arizona using local or nearby resources, and having a clean coal plant is a potential step forward,” he said.
Steve Owens, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, which also would have to approve the plant, also supported the technology.
“The bottom line is, if you are going to burn coal — which is going to happen because of the coal resources that are available in the West and the power needs of the West — this is a much preferable way to do it,” he said.
More information is available at www.bowiepower.com.