Forte says Drake shutdown might last a while

At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Utilities CEO Jerry Forte had bad news and good news about the fire Monday that severely damaged and shut down the downtown Martin Drake Power Plant.

The good news: The fire was largely confined to the southern wing of the building, which houses Unit 5, a 51-megawatt generator that dates from 1962. The main control room appears to be largely undamaged, Forte reported.

“Units 6 and 7 looked OK,” said Forte, “but I’m not an expert.”

The bad news: There’s substantial damage to Unit 5 and to the building itself. Portions of the roof are compromised, and it’s still dangerous to enter. It’s also possible that Units 6 and 7, which together account for more than 200MW of capacity, were damaged by the sudden unplanned shutdown that the fire necessitated.

Forte confirmed that the process of assessing the damage will take time.

“I’d say that eight weeks would be optimistic,” he said.

CSU believes that insurance (which kicks in after a $1 million deductible) will cover much of the damage.

Meanwhile, utility customers may have to endure a long, hot and expensive summer. Forte confirmed that CSU is already purchasing power from the grid, and will have to do so for the duration of the shutdown. If, as now seems possible, the plant is inoperable throughout the summer months, electricity users will see increased bills and CSU’s operating expenses will also take a hit.