CANCO project helps electric co-op power up
9 months, 1 week ago
Meeting current needs: Central Iowa Power Cooperative’s new generating station keeps electricity flowing when renewable sources can’t meet demand.
By CRAIG T. NEISES
CRESTON, Iowa – One need not travel far to see the future of power generation lies in wind and solar energy.
Towering forests of turbines and glistening seas of photovoltaic panels dot the landscape in ever-growing numbers, while fossil fuels slowly go the way of the prehistoric plant matter that produced them. Albeit, not entirely.
Not yet, anyway.
“In a shifting industry, everybody is trying to find the right solution,” said Central Iowa Power Cooperative’s Sam Stineman. “We also recognize the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow.”
With that, Stineman — CIPCO’s director of generation assets — described both the central challenge of the shift to renewable energy in the power industry, and the place of the co-op’s new generating station in its ability to ensure power reaches customers when and where they need it.
At 55 megawatts total, the three new natural gas piston engines in the new, 28,000 square-foot Summit Lake Generating Station, near Creston in southwest Iowa, produce more electricity than the 20 megawatts of its steam-driven predecessor. That’s enough to fulfill its balancing role in what Stineman said is the co-op’s “bigger portfolio,” which includes a substantial amount of energy from intermittent and solar-based resources.
Among the 58 Iowa counties where CIPCO provides electricity to its member rural electric co-ops, the station’s role is to be responsive to energy supply and demand fluctuations, and to operate no more or less than when it is needed to balance demand during low-wind and peak usage periods.
The Summit Lake site also employs two dual-fuel combustion turbines to generate electricity, but the steam-driven generation facility built there in the 1950s was nearing the end of its life and was in need of replacement.
The CIPCO Board of Directors determined in late 2018 the co-op needed a generation facility capable of efficient and nimble dispatch, and issued construction contracts in July 2019. After the new building was erected, and installation then testing of the equipment was complete, the new generators went online in April 2021.
Carl A. Nelson & Company (CANCO) was able to help CIPCO meet its goals for the project by performing two different contracts.
The first was a design-build contract to procure the steel for the new facility. CANCO was able to show the planned use of a pre-engineered metal building was not the best or least costly choice for the engine house. The switch to hybrid steel construction was made at a significant savings of cost and time.
After that, Stineman said, it was a “no-brainer” to award CANCO the contract for erection of the 20,000 square-foot engine hall. CANCO’s scope also included an 8,000 square-foot, storm-hardened regional operations center, where dispatchers monitor the co-op’s section of the grid and send line crews who stage out of Summit Lake to spots where repairs are needed.
“You guys don’t hesitate to stand behind your product,” he said, “and we appreciate that.”
For more from the Summer 2021 edition of our industrial client newsletter, wibi, see the e-edition.