Explosion rocks gas-fired power plant in Iowa

Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) has confirmed an explosion at its gas-fired power plant on W. 27th Street in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The incident occurred at approximately 10 am local time August 19 during a routine startup of the No. 2 gas combustion turbine.

Two CFU employees were at the facility on Monday to monitor the unit during an annual generating capacity test. Both escaped the explosion without injury.

CFU said damages from the incident were limited to their property, which several local news outlets are reporting to have leveled nearly half of the building.  There were no fires or gas leaks at the site.

The cause of the explosion is currently unknown. An investigation has been launched and will include a root cause analysis by CFU staff and outside specialists.

The natural gas-fired station serves as a backup source of power during times of peak electric demand and outages at other facilities. CFU said the incident would not affect power supplies, but highlighted the facility still represented an important part of its generation portfolio.

"While we don’t use them as a daily source of electricity, our gas combustion turbines are an important reliability asset for our customers,” said CFU General Manager Jim Krieg. “For example, in 2007 high capacity transmission lines that bring power to Black Hawk County were flattened by an ice storm. Local generating assets like our gas turbines made it possible for us to keep the lights on.”

The utility said it will determine how to best repair or replace the damaged generation source following a complete analysis of the event.

CFU provides electricity, water, natural gas and broadband services to homes and businesses in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Utilities are owned by the City of Cedar Falls and operated for public benefit under the governance of a citizen Board of Trustees.

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