RBC I When Rio Blanco County and the towns of Meeker and Rangely recently contracted with Better City to hear analysis and new ideas for economic growth, they weren’t just looking for the towns themselves, but also for the county.
The Phase I-Community Assessment Report released this month by Better City details one recommendation—for Rio Blanco County to build a natural gas power plant.
While the Better City report describes the recruiting of a natural gas power plant as a “tremendous undertaking,” the group also stated that it would have the potential to benefit many generations of Rio Blanco County residents.
The report stated that Rio Blanco County sits in a strong position for such a plant due to its proximity to natural gas supply and high-voltage transmission lines. However, the price tag of this type of construction is high.
The report cites a U.S. Energy Information Administration estimate that a new 400 megawatt advanced generation natural gas plant would cost approximately $409 million. Additionally, the cost of constructing new high voltage transmission lines is “greater than $2 million per mile.”
Because of the cost of the transmission lines, the report recommends special consideration for a plant location near Meeker as the town is already near existing high-voltage transmission lines. If that is not an option, the report states, “It may be possible to structure other incentives near Rangely that would make up for the additional $20 million in infrastructure investment.”
Better City estimated that the project would likely create more than 100 jobs during construction. However that number drops to 15-20 permanent jobs once it is complete and operating. However, the jobs are described as high paying and stable.
The report recommends that the county begin with a feasibility analysis to determine things such as infrastructure requirements, demand, capital improvement estimates, environmental studies, economic impact, and incentive strategies.
Once completed, Better City suggests that county leadership begin “pounding the pavement” to recruit a power plant.
The Better City report is the first of four total phases completed by the company. The county plans to host public meetings in August to discuss the results and hear feedback from both communities.