(COLORADO SPRINGS) — On Tuesday afternoon, Colorado Springs Utilities (Springs Utilities) and local community leaders gathered to celebrate the completed installation of six natural gas generation units outside of the Martin Drake Power Plant.

“We’re here to celebrate technology that is light years ahead of the old power plant behind us,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. “Folks, we appreciate the legacy of the great plant. It has served our city so very well for nearly a century. But today is about moving forward.”

One light was flipped on during the ceremony on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the completed installation of the natural gas units.

Back in November 2022, the Martin Drake Power Plant closed, moving toward the goal made by the Utilities Board of a more sustainable future.

According to General Electric, these six units in Colorado Springs are the first of their kind installed in North America. These new six modular units will have a positive impact on the Pikes Peak Region as they have low emissions and high reliability.

“These six units are designed to bring electricity, they’re gas generating units, but they use natural gas and take that and actually make electricity and deliver this to your homes,” said Chief Executive Officer of Springs Utilities, Travas Deal. 

A worker inspects one of the six new natural gas units on Tuesday morning.

These units are a part of Springs Utilities’ Sustainable Energy Plan, with the goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2030.

“A lot of our customers are looking for renewables, but a lot of our customers also don’t want to give up reliability,” said Deal. “To me, this fits both. We run these when we have to have them for reliability, but it allows us to bring in renewables when they’re available.”

In comparing the former Martin Drake Power Plant to the natural gas generators, these new units will be time efficient. The natural gas units have an eight-minute start-up time compared to 12 hours at the Drake Power Plant.

“These six units with a fast start time… you only run them when you need them, so there is never excess or waste,” said Deal. “So, any time you can reduce the waste of what your needs are, it does save money. These quick acting will allow us to use the cheapest power that we can for the needs of Colorado Springs.”

Springs Utilities plans to move these six modular units from the Drake plant to other parts of Springs Utilities’ electric grid.

“We’re continuing to look at locations of these for future sites,” said Deal. “One of these as it looks right now, will probably go to Fort Carson to help with some of their future resiliency plans and the others are still to be determined. But we continually look [at] the best location for these to help improve system reliability and actually, you know, maintain our fleet stabilization when it comes into the grid.”

Plans for the Martin Drake Power Plant demolition are underway, with contractors working with the Springs Utilities to safely remove any hazardous materials inside.

“Our Drake plant, that plant will start decommissioning in the month of June,” said Deal. “So you’re going to start seeing that come down very methodically and slowly and safely. But you’re going to see that transition starting in June.”

You can share what you would like to see on the land of the Martin Drake Power Plant by emailing energyvision@csu.org