Power plant in Provo preparing for big changes

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PROVO, Utah – Provo is preparing to phase out their old power plant, which has been around since 1939.

Todd Sperry is the plant manager, and he said the facility is ready to be replaced.

"I guess you could call this a museum if you'd like, built back in late ‘30s, early ‘40s, so it's aging,” he said.

The old plant and its smokestacks have long been a landmark in Utah County, but officials said the facility is falling apart. There are cracked walls, broken windows and a crumbling ceiling that leaks. Officials said the building is not up to code, especially when it comes to the danger of seismic activity.

Scott Bunker, assistant director for Provo City Power, said their operations need to grow with the city.

"We're utilizing facilities that are almost 75 years old, and the last time they were upgraded or updated, our population was about 36,000; now the population of Provo is 120,000,” he said.

The city is considering three options. The first is to renovate the administration building, demolish the plant and smokestacks, and build a new power plant. The second is to renovate the power plant to create a new administrative office and warehouse and then build a new power plant. The final option is to demolish everything and start from scratch.

All three options would mean the end of the smokestacks. The north stack was last used in 2000 and the south stack was decommissioned in 1980. The stacks were built to vent emissions but currently house telecommunications equipment.

A new plant would feature four new stacks, would be quieter than the current facility and would have improved filtration, which means fewer pollutants.

"We're looking forward to a better plant, a cleaner plant, a much more efficient plant, easier to maintain,” Sperry said.

The project comes with an estimated price tag of $25 million. Bunker said the city is looking at several options for funding.

"We feel we have a great window of opportunity right now with our current situation that we are in financially, that we have a great opportunity to take advantage of this window and really do what we need to do to meet the needs of the citizens,” he said.

Bunker said the plant could be built using existing revenues so costs would not be passed along to consumers. Bunker said, at the most, customers may see their power bills increase by a couple of dollars each month.