- Rocky Mountain Power LLC, (no relation to the PacifiCorp utility), has informed Montana regulators that it is seeking to unload its coal-fired Hardin Generating Station in Big Horn County, but may shut down the facility in the first half of 2018 if a buyer is not found soon.
- According to the Billings Gazette, the plant is operated by Colorado Energy, which is owned by Heorot Power. The plant has a nameplate capacity of 120 MW, 30 employees and provides more than $400,000 in annual property taxes.
- The owners say Hardin’s cost of production is "among the lowest for thermal generators in the region," but a decline in the market price of electricity has caused the plant to lose money since 2014.
Owners of the Hardin plant say it is a valuable and reliable asset, but after losing money on it for multiple years they want out. It is a familiar refrain, as coal plants around the country have struggled to compete with cheap natural gas, ascendant renewables and stagnant demand.
"Given the plant’s importance to Big Horn County and the reliability it provides to the system, we expect that a sale of the plant would be preferential for all major stakeholders, and as such we have initiated preliminary discussions with potential interested parties," Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) said in a letter to regulators.
"We believe Hardin would be a valuable asset for an electricity distribution company or an industrial concern or consortium with a substantial electric load," it said.
According to RMP, the facility's delivered fuel cost "is substantially lower than natural gas during any month and it can provide reliable, baseload power to Montana homes and businesses well below current retail rates."
The plant is favorably positioned for future renewable and repowering opportunities, RMP said. It told the Montana Public Service Commission that a 15 MW solar facility was proposed at Hardin in 2012, and the facility is located within three miles of a natural gas pipeline. Converting the plant to burn gas is an option.
"If we are unable to identify a buyer for the facility, plant closure would be likely, perhaps as soon as the first or second quarter of 2018," RMP said.