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IPP considers adding a unit

Addition would help meet Utah’s future energy needs

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By 2007, Utah cities will need an additional 400 to 500 megawatts of electricity, enough power to keep 10 cities the size of Bountiful humming.

And according to Reed Searle, general manager of the Intermountain Power Agency, a third coal-burning unit at the agency's Intermountain Power Project is the answer.

On Monday, the agency's board of directors and coordinating committee discussed a $5 million formal agreement that would begin expansion of the existing two-unit power plant in Delta.

The board, which favors expansion, will formally vote on the agreement at its next scheduled meeting in August.

"It's to get the ball rolling," said Ray Farrell, chairman of the IPA's board of directors. "It's preliminary work to precede (construction)."

Approximately $2 million of the study agreement's cost would be paid for by the city of Los Angeles, which already holds contracts, along with five other California cities, to four-fifths of the electricity generated by the Utah facility.

By adding a third unit, nearly 900 megawatts of additional power could be produced.

However, Los Angeles has yet to decide how much of the new power it wants.

"We don't know right now what commitment we can make for actual megawatts," said David Wiggs, general manager of Los Angeles' Department of Water and Power. Wiggs was in Salt Lake Monday to meet with IPA and government officials.

"Right now, we don't need any more capacity in the 2007 time frame," he said. "But there is a lot happening in California. There are economic reasons. . . . We definitely want to keep this as an alternative and option for us. That's what we told the governor today."

Los Angeles has avoided much of the power crunch that has engulfed California.

"We've got plenty of generation. Our rates are stable, and we have no blackouts," Wiggs said. "In fact, we are selling power to the rest of the state to help them in the crisis."

Los Angeles Water and Power, which has 7,000 megawatts capacity, has, on occasion, sold up to 600 to 700 megawatts of power to other California areas, enough electricity for 600,000 to 700,000 homes.

Last month, Searle told the Deseret News that before a third unit was feasible, enough interest would be needed for the 900 megawatts. To date, the agency has commitments for 500 megawatts, according to Farrell, who remains optimistic that the agency can secure a 150-megawatt commitment from Los Angeles.

In addition, Farrell plans to take his campaign this week to California. "We are looking to the future," he said.

Preliminary plans for Delta's third unit would likely be completed by July 2002, followed by a three-year construction period.

"It will probably be about six more months to develop all of the contracts and get all of the approvals," Searle said. "Each and every city council has to give approval."

The IPA's seven-member board represents 23 Utah cities.

"We have many people in the state of Utah who are suffering for lack of power," said Leon Bowler, an IPA board member. "This will be a source of energy for them that will be cost-effective. It will also help solve some problems in California."

E-mail: danderton@desnews.com