Demolition on the Martin Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs will begin this summer

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Martin Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs is one of the last urban-sited coal plants in the United States. Colorado Springs Utilities has committed to closing the coal-fired portions of the facility by 2023 -12 years earlier than originally planned – and investing significantly more in renewable energy.

After providing power to the state’s second-largest city for nearly a half-century, the Martin Drake Power Plant is coming down.

Demolition on the coal-fired plant will begin this summer and last through summer 2024. Much of the area will then be covered with four inches of topsoil and planted with native grasses by the end of 2024.

About 75 people attended a public meeting on the plans Tuesday evening hosted by the city-owned power company, Colorado Springs Utilities. They heard from Doug Thomas, a Cleveland-based project manager with Independence Demolition, which the city is contracting with for the project. Thomas fielded questions from residents living near the plant concerned about noise, truck traffic and potential environmental contamination from the year-long demolition. 

“They want to make sure their house is not getting dusted over or their properties are protected, just like you and I would,” Thomas said. “And it’s our intent to do that.”

Project managers expect about eight truck-loads of debris will be carried from the site each day Monday through Saturday. Water will be sprayed over the area to mitigate dust and the facility will be taken down in sections to allow for asbestos abatement. A release from Colorado Springs Utilities said advance notice of “high noise events” will be provided to residents.

Locals expressed some enthusiasm for their neighborhood losing the large industrial facility, which is prominently placed in the city’s booming downtown. Yet, the enthusiasm was tinged with exhaustion. The area just saw a years-long construction of a stadium for the Switchbacks minor league soccer team finally completed. A large apartment complex is still being built right next to the stadium.  

“I use Sierra Madre [Street] to do my grocery shopping. Those trucks are probably going to be very loud and noisy," said 74-year-old resident Kat Millward. “We’ve got enough noise around that area at the moment as it is.”

Colorado Springs Utilities said once the site is finished, environmental reviews will need to be completed before determining what may be built on the site in the future. 

The current plant, completed in 1976, replaced an earlier Martin Drake Power Plant that had been operating at the site since 1925. Drake stopped burning coal there in the summer of 2021 as part of an effort to move the utility toward using cleaner sources of electricity. Six small natural gas “peaker” plants — those that generally run only during times of high demand — have been installed on the site and will begin operating in May.

The city has big plans for the area surrounding the power plant, hoping to transform the nearby Fountain Creek into an attraction not too dissimilar from what the South Platte River has become in downtown Denver.

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