GI Benefits from Early Action on $42 Million Power Plant Upgrades


Looking down eight stories high, the head of Grand Island Utilities gets a bird's eye view of a major construction project.

They're not building to meet demands of a growing city, but to meet tough new federal standards.

"Basically capture sulfur dioxide and other acid gases," Tim Luchsinger explained.

They call it a dry scrubber system. Luchsinger says what matters is that it works.

He said, "We're really staying with proven technology. No matter what we do here, it'll improve our emissions on the plant and probably give us a lot of flexibility for the future."

So even if the rules change again, Grand Island thinks it'll be ready.

"I don't want to say it's overkill but should give us plenty of capacity in the future to do what we have to, to meet emissions," Luchsinger said.

It comes with a $42 million price tag. Nationally, some estimate the cost to comply with new EPA MATS rules will be in the billions. But because Grand Island began work early, it may pay off.

"Our hope is by being one of the first to do that we're ahead of the suppliers as far as their ability to bid on the project," the utilizes director explained.

The city received several bids and chose AMEC, a company with offices across the globe. Construction began this fall with help of local subcontractors. They'll soon break for the winter but have much left to do.

Luchsinger said, "We intend to be fully done by April or May 2015."

It's still costing the city and ratepayers big bucks. Grand Island Utilities refinanced bonds to pay a big chunk of it.

But it could've been even costlier, if not for the vision to begin when they did.

The Utilities Department in Grand Island was also a reluctant pioneer on cleaning the water. But a year and a half after opening a uranium treatment plant, Luchsinger says it's working as well as could be expected.