Black Hills Energy has not sequestered workers at the WyGEN III’s Neil Simpson Complex and if it does, it is not likely to impact the city of Gillette.

The city gets most of its power from Black Hills Energy via the WyGen III at Neil Simpson Complex, a 110-megawatt coal-fired power plant that opened in April 2010. The city bought a 23% share of it for $63 million in August of that year. Black Hills Energy owns 52% and the Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska has 25% of it.

The plant also provides Gillette’s base power while CT II, Wyodak’s natural gas-fired turbine, gives supplemental power.

There are about 15,000 local homes and businesses that receive power from the facilities, said Gillette Utilities Director Michael Cole.

“To my knowledge, the city of Gillette has not been affected by Black Hills Energy’s sequestration plan,” Cole said. “Black Hills Energy employees continue to operate the plant(s), providing reliable power for our city’s customers.”

What’s the plan?

Black Hills Energy is working with its corporate response team to review all aspects of the company’s pandemic plans.

This includes Ready2Work, which is a sequestration plan “to ensure the safety of its customers and employees while living up to the obligation to provide essential electric and natural gas services,” said Michael Howe, Black Hills Energy spokesman, in an email.

Howe said he could not disclose the number of employees because of security reasons.

Before implementing the plan, there are factors to be considered. They include government shelter-in-place orders, the percentage of a community’s population that tested for COVID-19 and the speed of which the population has been tested for the coronavirus.

“Black Hills Energy is committed to doing its part to slow the spread of COVID-19 while providing an essential service that keeps us all warm and protected,” said Marc Ostrem, Black Hills Energy vice president of mines and power delivery, in a press release. “To ensure everyone’s well-being, we’ve activated an essential response plan aimed to do both.”

To safely execute its plan, the company is taking extra steps to protect customers and employees by:

  • Having crews continue to respond to all emergency calls, wear appropriate personal protective equipment and follow health practices as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health organizations
  • Paying employees who test positive or are put under quarantine

“The Ready2Work plan is another proactive approach to provide additional measures to safeguard our employees who provide critical services and ensure we have adequate staffing levels to maintain safe and reliable service to our customers who are depending on us more than ever,” Howe said.

There is no time frame for how long sequestration would take place if it is executed.

“If the plan is initiated, it is designed to ensure we can continue to deliver energy to our customers during this most challenging timely sequestering certain employees onsite who provide critical functions needed to operate a very complex electrical system,” he said.

The company has worked with employees and their families to prepare for the possibility of sequestration.

For customers who may be impacted by the coronavirus, Black Hills Energy is temporarily suspending nonpayment disconnections.

“We realize that due to possible extended periods of isolation, customers may face financial hardships effecting their ability to timely pay their energy bills,” the company stated. “We offer various assistance options to our customers such as payment arrangements, budget billing and medical extensions.”

Plans at Wyodak?

PacifiCorp, which owns Wyodak, is not implementing sequestration measures for its 60 employees.

“Rocky Mountain Power’s top priority is protecting the health of our employees and the community while we provide reliable power,” the company said in a prepared statement.

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