The Cameo Station Power Plant, owned by Xcel, is a coal-fueled power plant located in East Grand Junction, Colorado. The plant uses low-sulfur coal as its primary fuel and natural gas as a secondary fuel. Coal used at Cameo is collected from the nearby McClane Canyon Mine near Mack, CO. The plant consists of 2 units which provide a combined output of 73 megawatts. Unit One came online in 1950, and the Unit Two followed in 1960. The plant controls sulfur dioxide emissions into the air with baghouses on the exhaust pipes. Operation on the same principle as a vacuum, the baghouses collect 99% of the sulfur dioxide emissions from the exhaust gas. Cameo was also a testing site for integrating solar energy with a coal-fired plant.
Many consider the useful life of a power plant to be 30 years, but the Cameo plant has been kept open for long past that. Its first and second units are 60 and 50 years old respectively. That the plant is outdated is not in debate; however some lawmakers in Colorado made efforts last May to keep the plant open so that the jobs at the plant could be preserved. Xcel wanted to shutter the plant because its outdated technology would be too expensive to maintain. Xcel also argued that plant workers have been prepared for the closure and many will be retiring, moving to different plants, or switching careers. However, 100 mining and trucking jobs would also be eliminated by the closure of Cameo.
In an effort to preserve these jobs, Colorado legislators introduced HB 1282. This bill would force Xcel to keep Cameo open until 2012. It is anticipated that Red Cliff Mine will open in 2012, at which point the trucking and mining jobs would be moved over as well. The legislators made the argument that closing Cameo was not in the best interest of the consumers, as the need for energy is continuing to grow. Xcel countered by stating that it was too expensive to keep the plant open. In the end, a follow-up report from May 13, 2010 stated that the bill was killed. The plant was expected to close late in 2010, although no new information is available as to whether or not the closure took place.
Another possible consequence of the plant’s age is the materials used in its construction. Many power generating facilities built in the 1950s and 1960s contained asbestos in the insulation used in the building and even in the machines themselves. Though an effective insulator, asbestos also posed a significant health danger to the plant’s workers, and extended exposure has been known to result in diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Williams, David O. (May 4, 2010). “Lawmakers seek to stall Xcel plan to shutter inefficient Cameo Station plant.” Retrieved from The Colorado Independent.