UAF chancellor seeks money for power plant

FAIRBANKS — Maintenance for the coal-fired plant that heats and powers the University of Alaska Fairbanks will cost $35 million over five years. Chancellor Brian Rogers says a preferable solution would be starting over.

Rogers on Wednesday in Juneau pitched building a new coal-fired power plant for $195 million, claiming it’s the best long-term alternative. He called a new plant the “fiscally responsible thing to do now,” the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

“Rather than patch an old plant, we’d like to build the new plant,” he said.

A new coal-fired power plant that would provide heat and power for 50 years, Rogers said.

UAF would contribute $50 million in bonding. The bonds can be paid back with savings in fuel costs, according to the proposal.

The university reviewed other options, Rogers said.

A natural gas plant could be built for half the cost but would be designed to have a useful life of just 25 to 30 years, Rogers said.

Natural gas trucked from the North Slope would cost $15.4 million annually, he said, compared to $5.3 million per year for coal.

A public-private partnership for the plant could cost $31 million per year for the first 20 years, he said.

“We know $195 million is a heavy lift in any budget, notwithstanding one short of money,” he said. “We continue to look to see if there is a more cost effective solution and we will continue to do so.”

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