By Marty Mayfield
The Raton Public Service distribution system consists of eight circuits feeding the city of Raton and out east into Carrisbrook along highway 72.
RPS over the last few years has been upgrading the distribution system by replacing poles and wire to bring it in line with today’s standards and improve reliability. There have also been upgrades at the Power Plant Substation near downtown Raton in the form of a new transformer and switch gear to help with the distribution of electricity.
The electricity coming into Raton comes in on a single 69KV line from the Raton substation on Gardner Road and is metered at the power plant before going out on the distribution system. The Power Plant Substation is also where Raton’s own generation capability ties into the system.
RPS mothballed the old power plant in February 2006 due to environmental issues with coal burning emissions. At that time securing a source for coal had also become problematic for RPS. The equipment in the power plant is well over 50 years old and will require some work to get it back up and running, should RPS find a way to deal with the emissions issue. With the new federal administration in place could those restrictions be lifted offering a ray of hope for RPS? Or will new technology that is being developed answer the emissions issues? Also, will RPS be able to find a supply of coal that meets the needs of the plant? All these questions will remain unanswered for the near future.
RPS dedicated resources, financial and personnel, to overhauling the Wartsila 7.5 megawatt gas generator so that they would be able to generate most of their power needs and eliminate the need to purchase power from ARPA. Following the complete overhaul in October 2012 the Wartsila generator suffered a catastrophic failure that rendered it inoperable during the start up to the desired output.
With proceeds from insurance RPS set out to procure replacement generation. Ultimately a 4.3 megawatt generator was purchased. The new 4.3 megawatt GE Jenbacher generator will be operational in mid-2017 however Raton will only be allowed to run the generator during times of blackout based on the current contract with Twin Eagle. According to the manufacturer the best scenario for the generator’s operation is to run it continuously. Due to the size of the unit only parts of town can be supplied with electricity during a total power outage, while other parts of town will go dark until outside power is restored or switched in from Springer Electric. Rolling black outs are also a consideration should the power be out for an extended length of time. Those blackouts will most likely effect the residential areas of town in order to keep essential or emergency facilities like the hospital operational.
Should RPS find a way to add more natural gas generation to the system the next question, is there enough capacity in the current gas distribution system of Raton Natural Gas to handle such a demand? According to David Link of Raton Natural Gas they have the capacity coming into Raton the issue maybe more the local distribution system and whether it is big enough to feed the demand at the location of the plant.