St. Louis-based utility looks to build natural gas turbines in Columbia, Mo.


Columbia, Mo., Oct. 6, 2000 (Columbia Daily Tribune)—AmerenUE could have something new for Columbia.

The St. Louis-based utility company is asking the city to give the go-ahead on a project to build three natural gas turbines at the city-owned Bolstad substation northeast of town. A company representative said that AmerenUE is proposing the project in response to a request from the city.

The tentative arrangement calls for the city to lease land to AmerenUE and provide right of way for a gas line and transmission service. AmerenUE, meanwhile, would finance, design, build and operate the turbines, then sell the power to the city’s Water and Light Department.

The company wants to go forward with the project immediately, so it’s pressing for a commitment soon from city manager Ray Beck and the Columbia City Council, which will review the proposal on Monday night. With approval, AmerenUE would hire engineers and lawyers and begin construction, with a tentative goal of finishing by next summer.

Company representatives will meet with city officials at 6 p.m. Monday, before the council’s regular meeting.

“This is all preliminary,” AmerenUE media spokeswoman Susan Gallagher emphasized yesterday. “We’re doing this in response to a request by the city of Columbia.”

A partnership could prove highly profitable, Beck said yesterday, noting that natural gas is an efficient energy source that could save the city money in times of peak electricity demand.

“It could be a win-win situation,” he said.

Legal and engineering costs would be the biggest cost to the city, according to a report from Beck to the city council. But both Beck and Gallagher cautioned that specific costs — to either AmerenUE or the city — remain unknown.

“We don’t know what will be required with planning or zoning,” Gallagher said. “They’ll probably want to get the initial permits soon.”

Gallagher said the arrangement would present neither nuisances nor environmental hazards.

“It’s a good, clean technology,” she said. “That’s not a real issue.”

A police department shooting range would have to be moved to accommodate the project, according to Beck’s report.

The city has long provided electric service to residents and businesses and last year cut its rates by 3 percent.

While the city generates its own electricity by burning coal at the municipal power plant, it also buys electricity from many sources.

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© 2000, Columbia Daily Tribune, Mo. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.