Rawhide Energy Station

Platte River Power Authority owns and runs Rawhide Energy Station near Wellington, Colorado. The power station is coal-fired and can produce 294 megawatts of power. To do this, the station’s burners use enough coal each day to fill thirty railroad cars.

Platte River Power Authority is a part of the Colorado state government. Between 1974 and 1979, it built a coal-fired plant at Craig, Colorado. In 1976, it began the hunt for a location to build a second plant. A site was found about twenty-six miles north of Fort Collins, very near the town of Wellington. This site was in a sparsely populated region and was easily accessible from every direction by train. Building there would use up very little agricultural land, so the site was approved in 1979 to become the home of Rawhide Energy Station. September of that year brought about the start of its construction, and March 31, 1984, saw it generating power.

The coal used to power Rawhide comes from the Powder River coalfield. The classification of this coal is sub-bituminous, and its low sulfur content is thought to be better for the environment than other coal. Its low sulfur content is accompanied by a low “heat rate.” In other words, it has less BTUs of energy. So, quite often plants that use the low sulfur coal will burn up to 50% more coal to produce the same power that higher sulfur coal does.

Like many other power plants, factories, and workplaces of the era, Rawhide Energy Station likely made use of asbestos. Used for its excellent insulating qualities, keeping workers safe was one of the reasons for utilizing asbestos. As it happened, workers and their families were actually put at risk as a result of its usage. It was discovered that if asbestos fibers were inhaled or ingested, they became embedded in the lungs and could cause harmful diseases such as asbestosis or mesothelioma. A variety of cancer that shows up in the lining of the pleural cavity, mesothelioma usually proves fatal within two years of diagnosis.

If a workplace contains asbestos nowadays, there are laws that control its use, and employers provide protection for their workers. When the Rawhide Energy Station was built, the public was largely unaware of the dangers of asbestos exposure, though some employers knew and chose not to tell their workers.