Arapahoe Generating Station

Arapahoe Station is situated a bit south of Denver, Colorado’s downtown district. The plant is a coal-fueled station that generates steam electricity. Arapahoe Station is capable of producing over 156 megawatts of power, 45 of which are produced by unit three and 111 of which are produced by unit four. The plant’s source of fuel is low-sulfur coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. In 1950, the Arapahoe Station began functioning, at which time only one unit was utilized. Units two and three were put into service in 1951, followed by unit four in 1955. In January 2003, units one and two were voluntarily retired by Xcel Energy in compliance with the Denver Metro Emissions Reduction Plan.

Arapahoe Station is located in an urban area that is home to numerous wildlife species, including migrating birds and foxes. The facility also shares its property with other plants, as well, wisely making the most of its situation close to neighboring plants. An organization called Air Liquide, which specializes in providing medical and industrial gases, operates a liquid gas processing plant on the same property. Southwest Generation owns and runs two 40-Megawatt natural gas-fueled combustion turbines, as well as a 43-Megawatt steam turbine on the property. Xcel Energy buys the electric output from Southwest Generation.

Baghouses control the emissions from Arapahoe Station’s units three and four, removing 99% of the emission particles from the flue gases. Additionally, unit four features low-NOx burners that lower nitrogen oxide emissions by approximately 40% and sulfur dioxide levels by approximately 20% through the use of dry sorbent injections. In addition, the plant implemented a closed loop ash de-watering system in 2005 to isolate water from ash. Separating water and ash in tanks rather than ponds ensures that stream standards are met and also allows water to be recycled for future use in the system.

The plant also actively participates in its community, maintaining a water station for the South Platte River Bike Trail and hosting a water station for commuting cyclists during the state’s regional “bike-to-work day.” Plant workers are also involved with efforts to beautify the county, participating in activities such as tree planting on the facility’s property, showing support for Denver’s “Tree by Tree” planting project, as well as the city’s “Denver Digs Trees” program. Additionally, the plant cooperates with local emergency crews, offering space for mutual training routines.

Despite the plant’s community involvement the facility’s age may still put many employees at risk through the use of unsafe materials. One of these material frequently used in older power plants was asbestos, which was used heavily as an insulator in facilities like Arapahoe Station. Despite its value as an insulator, the material also leads to the development of lethal health conditions like mesothelioma and asbestos when individuals are exposed to its fragmented particles. These fibers become embedded in the tissue surrounding organs, called the mesothelium, and lead to the development of these life-threatening conditions.