The Grand River Dam Authority broke ground Friday morning on a major addition to their power station near Chouteau. And they believe it's a groundbreaking improvement - in more efficiency - and fewer emissions.
The existing power plant runs entirely on coal, through units one and two. GRDA plans to build a third unit that runs on natural gas. They believe it's going to be better for their customers and for the environment too.
The last time GRDA started up a new power plant here was 1985, when coal was the only practical solution. It's worked for all these years, and remains inexpensive - which is fortunate because in the summer - the plant at Chouteau burns a train load of Wyoming coal every day.
It's a huge logistical issue, and environmental regulations are making it more practical to switch to natural gas.
So with fanfare suited for a once every few decades event - GRDA broke ground on a new, $425 million generator at Chouteau. GRDA will build the new unit on the east side; the change in technology allows it to be much smaller, though it generates the same amount of electricity.
"When it goes commercial, it will be the most efficient, cleanest burning combustion turbine technology operating in North America," said David Walsh, President Mitsubishi Hitachi Power.
The new generator will be the first of its kind in North America.
The manufacturer claims it will make electricity with about one-third of the carbon dioxide, and take other pollution down to levels much lower than what's currently possible with coal.
The newer of the two existing generators will keep running until 2030, but it's being upgraded to cut down on emissions.
"We'll do that in phases so we can keep the unit operational while we do the upgrades," said GRDA CEO Dan Sullivan.
Sullivan says the new plant ensures GRDA can keep prices lower for the long term - while moving from a fuel source that's out of state - to one that comes from Oklahoma.
"It will be one of the most efficient plants in the country, so we'll get the most out of the natural gas that goes in there, and we'll decrease our emissions, so it's a great thing for both of us," he said.
Construction on the natural gas unit will start in March and take two years to finish; but once it's done, one of the coal burning units will be turned off.