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Glendale to cut ties with coal-burning plant in 2017

Glendale will be parting ways with a New Mexico-based coal-burning plant in 2017 and starting its search for a more renewable source of energy after a City Council vote last week.

Currently, the San Juan coal-fired plant in San Juan County generates 100-megawatt hours of electricity every year for Glendale. Combined with a similar plant in Utah, they account for a third of the city’s energy portfolio, said Steve Zurn, general manager of Glendale Water & Power.

The city has a 1.2% ownership stake in the New Mexico plant and has had an agreement with it since 1992. The council voted 5 to 0 to cut ties in two years.

Despite the low cost of coal, the San Juan site is one of Glendale’s most expensive sources of power because the plant’s condition is declining and it is on its way to being decommissioned.

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The Utah plant generates a megawatt — which would power about 1,000 homes for a year — for about $20; it costs $100 at San Juan, Zurn said.

Zurn told council members it’s the right time to divest the city’s interest in the New Mexico plant.

Not only would Glendale be able to end its contract with an aging plant, he said, but the city could then “take the money we’ve been spending on this plant, turn it around to buy cheaper and more environmentally friendly power.”

If the city divests itself of the plant when the contract ends in 2017, it will have roughly $9 million annually to buy power from a new source, one that would generate cleaner energy, Zurn said.

He added that he expects $9 million to go much further and buy more power than the San Juan plant could provide.

Councilman Zareh Sinanyan called the scenario a win-win, while Councilwoman Laura Friedman applauded the effort to trim the city’s use of coal because of its negative effect on the environment.

“This is great work,” Friedman said. “We’re getting ourselves off coal, which is not sustainable and polluting. It’s a big priority of mine and now for the city as well.”

After the New Mexico coal-burning plant is out of Glendale’s energy portfolio, only the Utah plant will remain. Zurn said the agreement with that site expires around 2027.

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After that, he said, coal will no longer be a power source for the city.

arin.mikailian@latimes.com

Twitter: @arinmikailian

Mikailian writes for Times Community News.

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