Gerald Gentleman, providing reliable energy for over 40 years
SUTHERLAND, Neb. (KNOP) - The CEO of Nebraska Public Power is praising the employees for their devotion to the job. Tom Kent spent time in Sutherland recently to address those responsible for keeping Gerald Gentleman Station (GGS) safely and reliably going day after day, night after night, and year after year.
Nebraska’s largest electricity generating plant, GGS, is just south of Sutherland. It is owned and operated by Nebraska Public Power, consisting of two coal-fired generating units, with the combined capability of generating 1,365 megawatts of power.
Of the two units, launched into service in 1979 and 1982 respectively, the younger unit is being celebrated at its 40-year milestone.
With roughly 200 employees around the clock, Kent wants them thanked and remembered. He wants all of them remembered, both past and current employees, for their dedication to keeping the power safely flowing from the mega-machine to homes and businesses and to everyone using electricity.
A meeting to thank employees, lunch catered from Paxton’s Ole’s, and plant tours were included in celebrating the 40-year milestone.
Gerry Phelps is the Station Manager of GGS. He has been at the plant for 43 years. He said it’s been a great career.
Phelps added, “GGS was designed to run in cold weather. We maintain that day to day. The people ran the plan great during the Polar Vortex. We were on full power the whole time. It’s just a great asset for the customers in the State of Nebraska to have this plant, and what the people do to keep it going, and reliable. They take ownership in the equipment. They know if it’s running good. They get a quality of work life. They take pride in their day-to-day work and make sure it’s running good.”
With the electric utility industry undergoing a transformation “probably never seen in its 100-plus years of existence,” according to Kent, NPPD is in the phase of moving to resources with different characteristics to balance the needs of the public and the requests of customers to have greener energy resources. Kent says the need to ensure affordability and reliability remains, and GGS is a key part of that story.
“We are here, generating electricity, meeting all of the environmental requirements that we are subject to, and ensuring that the lights stay on, on a hot sunny day when the wind might not be blowing as much.”
Kent says it is critical to balance the rich resource mix in Nebraska while addressing issues such as carbon emissions.
Nebraska Public Power touts the plant as “Generating reliable, low-cost electricity.” Customers are reminded that both Gerald Gentleman Station and Sheldon Station in Hallam, Nebraska “meet all federal and state air pollution and water quality regulations, and are operated in a way that protects the public’s health and safety.”
During a recent tour of GGS, Courtney Dentlinger of NPPD said, “steam,” as she pointed to the only evidence coming out of the massive building of its awesome activity within its giant walls. At full operating capacity on the day of the tour, nothing could be seen coming from the tall double stacks.
Gerald Gentleman Station is Nebraska’s largest electric generating facility, supplying enough electricity to serve 600,000 Nebraskans. It is consistently ranked as one of the lowest production-cost electric generation plants in the nation. Low-sulfur coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin is used as fuel to generate steam to turn each of the plant’s turbines. The coal is transported by Union Pacific Railroad using coal cars owned by NPPD. Rail spurs to each plant are also owned by NPPD.
The construction of Gerald Gentleman station began in May 1973 and the first unit entered commercial service in April 1979 at a cost of $335 million. The construction of the second unit began in June 1977 and it began its commercial service in January 1982 with an additional expenditure of $287 million. The facility is named after Gerald Gentleman, a Platte Center, Nebraska native.
Gerald Gentleman Station burns as much as 800 tons (730,000 kg) of coal per hour.
Tom Kent was asked how he feels the future of energy production might look in another 40 years.
“That’s a really good question. I’m not sure my crystal ball is that good, but let me talk about this site. This site will always be part of our generation. Forty years from now, will it be burning Powder River Basin coal like we are today? Or Powder River Basin coal with carbon-capture technology? Or will it be using another technology? maybe nuclear, maybe something else? This has all the good things you need to be a continued good location for generated electricity. ”
“The question will be, when we look at affordability, reliability, and sustainability, what is the best fuel mix 40 years from now? That question has yet to be answered.”
The plant celebration coincides with the NPPD board holding its regular meeting in North Platte, as the board travels outside Columbus to another Nebraska community once a year for a meeting.
“The utility industry: a lot of equipment, a lot of complexity, a lot of dollars invested but it doesn’t work but for the people, and the people are what makes it work and the people are what make it run reliably. So, thank you to the team for their efforts and their continued work to run this plant and serve Nebraska. It’s number one.”
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