Updated: Multi-Million Dollar Power Plant Upgrade Approved

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The Grand Island City Council approved a $42-million upgrade to the Platte Generating Station at its meeting Tuesday night. It's part of the city's plans to meet new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA announced its new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) in December 2011, requiring coal- and oil-fired power plants to make changes to reduce toxic emissions.

"The upgrades we're proposing will inject reagents into our boiler gas stream. That will remove mercury and primarily sulfur dioxide, and then this will be collected with other particulates in a fabric filter," explained Grand Island city utilities director Tim Luchsinger.

The EPA notes that these changes will avert up to 11,000 premature deaths each year as well as prevent nearly 5000 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks annually.

"The equipment we're proposing is a proven technology," Luchsinger said.

Luchsinger projected the upgrades will be completed just in time to meet in the April 16, 2015 deadline.

"We're looking at taking about 24 months, so if we award the contract now, it's going to be early 2015 before we get it installed, and then probably two or three months after that to get the system tested and running properly," he said.

Luchsinger also noted that the project will create some new jobs.

"For the most part we're expecting the contractor to bring his own forces for this project. There will be some influence here on the job market as far as a lot of the concrete work, dirt work, site work that type of thing. We probably will have to hire additional staff at the plant after the system is in place, but we really aren't sure what those numbers might be or the type of people," said Luchsinger.

And he added that the city will try to make the financial impact on residents as little as possible.

"We refinanced some existing electric revenue bonds that we had in the past year in the anticipation that we'd have to proceed with this project, and what that will allow us to do is reduce the impact of the capital expense on the customers here in Grand Island," Luchsinger said.

AMEC, a company from Georgia, won the contract with the lowest overall bid. The equipment and operating costs of the upgrades are estimated to be more than $100 million over the course of 20 years.