Officials provo power plant dangerous, must be replaced provo news heraldextra.com gas leak east los angeles

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The last time the stacks were used was during an energy emergency in 2000 when Enron went down and the Hunter power plant was off-line. The cost of power went from eight cents a kilowatt hour to 30 cents a kilowatt hour. Even then there was concern about the stacks’ safety.

"Because of the time period that they were constructed in, it is expected that they do not meet current seismic requirements," Bunker said. "In the last couple of years, because of years of deterioration, the stacks have had large pieces fall off requiring several significant repairs, with the area around the south stack having been closed off for about two years at one point because the area was deemed unsafe due to falling debris until the necessary repairs (the cap was removed and repaired) could be made.

In a report by Dyanmic Structures it said, "The primary concern with the stacks is that they were built decades before seismic provisions were introduced into the building codes. With an awareness of what the building codes currently require, it is intuitive that the stacks would not provide a measure of life safety if subjected to a significant earthquake."

In its investigation Dynamic Structures said, "The ability to resist seismic forces is where the structure is primarily deficient. The building as constructed affords very little, if any, measure of life safety from a moderate to severe seismic event."

Bunker said it is estimated it will cost approximately $40 per square foot to upgrade and retrofit the building. The plant houses three diesel/natural gas power generators used for peak and emergency power generation. It also houses one old steam turbine power generator not currently used, a dispatch center, and the offices for the Utah Municipal Power Agency (UMPA).

"It appears that many elements of the Administration/Office building’s construction have met or exceed their intended life expectancy," said the WPA Architecture report. "Many of these items require major improvements or should be replaced."

Dynamic Structures said, "It is our opinion that the Office Building has been used beyond its useful life and needs to be replaced or be subject to major retrofit. Based on information available and from our observations, it appears that none of the walls in the building are reinforced sufficiently to resist earthquake forces."

Ball said even the service trucks are unable be used efficiently, particularly in the winter, because garage bays are too small. Trucks are parked three to five deep. In the winter they are plugged in to keep the diesel engines warm, but with cold winters still have problems starting. These are the same trucks that are called upon to help with downed power lines and other emergency services.

Provo Power’s history begins in 1933, when E.A. Mitchell proposed establishing a municipal power plant. That same year Mark Anderson took up the cause, organizing the Provo Development Association. According to Power Plant history books, there was initially significant opposition against the establishing of a municipal power utility.

By August 1939 a significant majority of Provo citizens approved the building of a power plant. Construction of the initial phase was completed the following year. For almost 75 years the Provo Power plant and smoke stacks have stood as a reminder of the benefits of public power.

"One of the most important benefits of a municipal utility is that it is locally owned and locally controlled within the community itself," Linford said. "In a municipal setting the citizens act as shareholders similar to a corporation, where a specific percentage of the revenue is transferred to its shareholders.

According to the Provo Power history book, "Headquartered in Spanish Fork, UMPA was organized to provide ‘the benefits of economies of scale through joint endeavors relating to generation, transmission and distribution of electric power and energy’ and to involve ‘each member in the planning, operating and developing stages it undertakes.’"

Doug Smoot, a 20-year volunteer member of the Provo Power board of directors, is also a member of the American Public Power Association. He said that 20 percent of the power used in the United States is through public power, and 80 percent is through private companies like Utah Power.

Provo’s population was 18,000 when construction began on the power plant. By 1960, when the last additions to the power plant and administrative buildings were completed, Provo Power was serving 36,000 residents. Today nearly 120,000 residents are using the same facilities.

Projections show that Provo’s population will continue to increase by two percent a year into the foreseeable future. The challenge is to plan for the next 30-50 years with current conditions and keep efficient operations. It is unlikely that will happen. Changes are necessary to maintain the level of services for the growing population.

"We haven’t really discussed yet how we are going to fund this," Linford said. "There’s bond options and some of our debt is being paid off. There are opportunities that have not been decided in how to use those funds. There could be an option for many things."

The Municipal Council and administration will continue to monitor the process and evaluate what should be done at the Provo Power campus. It is anticipated there will be several public hearings and open houses on the matter. However, the cracks and crumbling don’t lie, the time has long since arrived to fix, renovate or build anew.