Region by region, switch to renewable energy continues

Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the power supplier for Southwest Colorado, announced Wednesday it plans to build solar arrays in the region as part of a larger plan to replace coal-fired power plants in Colorado and New Mexico.

Tri-State announced last week it plans to close the Escalante Station near Prewitt, New Mexico, by the end of 2020 and the Craig Station and Colowyo Mine in northwest Colorado by 2030. The move will eliminate Tri-State’s coal emissions in both states.

To help replace the power produced by those plants, Tri-State plans to build eight new solar and wind projects by 2024, enough to power more than 800,000 homes, Tri-State CEO Duane Highley said. The projects will increase the percentage of renewable power consumed by Tri-State customers from about 33% to 50% by 2024.

The transition is expected to drive lower rates for customers because the price of renewable power has fallen by 85% in 10 years and is cheaper than any form of fossil fuel, he said. He described the savings as a “green-energy dividend” that will also allow Tri-State to pay off its coal-power plants on an accelerated timetable…

Way too much good sense at play here for the clown show in Congress and the White House. Can you imagine for-real leadership away from polluting 19th Century technology and into renewable energy sources coming from either of the two old parties?

Scotland closed its last coal-fired power plant

Click to enlargeJeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Scotland may be home to golf, haggis, and Sean Connery — but it’s no longer hospitable to coal. On March 24, Scottish Power shut down Longanett power station, its last standing coal-fired power plant.

…The act of silencing the plant’s turbines was exactly what you might imagine — granted, it would probably never occur to you to imagine something like this, but if you were going to: A crowd gathered ’round a very retro control room as a man pressed a large, red button to the tune of an alarm sounding in the background.

Longanett power station provided electricity for Scottish lads and lasses for nearly half a century, but its days were fated to come to an end with the onset of a pricey carbon tax and, you know, the whole global decline of coal. The Guardian reports that a handful of straggling open-cast coal mines remain in Scotland, but Longanett was the last major coal user in the country.

Though the closing of the power station signals the end for some jobs, it’s accompanied by a wave of energy investment, including more than $900 million in offshore wind farms. By 2020, Scotland hopes to keep its 5 million residents humming on 100 percent clean energy.

Looks like coal power in Scotland is becoming almost as elusive as Nessie.

Har. Almost thought I saw Nessie once. Sitting by the River Ness north of the Loch. Sudden thrashing in the water 30 or 40 meters from where I sat. I was ready as anyone to be amazed. Rummaging in my pockets for my backpacking Rollei.

A lump rose up from the water. It was a sea lion with a salmon about 3 feet long gripped in its mouth. I laughed, I guess, in relief.

Rooftop solar so popular in Western Australia power privatisation not an option

Western Australia would not be able to privatise its electricity assets “even if they gave it to them for nothing” because the popularity of rooftop solar panels has made state-owned power stations unprofitable, a renewable energy expert has said.

Prof Philip Jennings, a lecturer in energy and physics at Murdoch University, said the uptake of solar was a looming problem for the Barnett government, which has indicated it may consider privatising some or all of its energy assets after the 2017 state election.

An analysis of energy regulator data by Curtin University found that rooftop solar panels had the capacity to produce more electricity than any power station servicing the Perth grid.

WA’s electricity network is 66% over capacity, thanks in part to an unexpected increase in rooftop solar.

❝“Effectively we have built another very large power station on the rooftops of Perth, and that is what has thrown the government’s calculations out because they didn’t factor it into their calculations when they decided to go in and bring [coal-fired power stations] Muja A and B back online,” Jennings told Guardian Australia…

They are used intermittently at high-demand times.

The power stations, which Jennings described as “not particularly clean and not particularly efficient”, were tipped to be among the state assets up for sale in a bid by the treasurer, Mike Nahan, to curb WA’s credit rating.

But Jennings said unless the state’s energy profile changed, investors were unlikely to be interested in Muja or any other assets.

The cost of electricity in WA has increased 85% since 2008, and the number of houses with solar panels has increased by 40%.

“Every time they put up the tariff for coal-fired power in WA it just encourages people to put solar on their rooftops,” he said. “We’re not talking solar panels in Cottesloe [the beachfront inner-city suburb where the state premier, Colin Barnett, lives]. The general take-up rates are not in the wealthy suburbs, they are in the mortgage belt. People factor it into the cost of building a house.”

Backwards, greedy public utilities [is there any other kind] throughout the industrialized world face the same problem. Those with a significant number of politicians in their deep pockets try for the most egregious of solutions – for their balance sheet. They get the state to tax homeowners an exorbitant amount for the privilege of semi-independence from the “requirements” of the electric grid.

We face the same here in New Mexico even though solar power is a natural and the state engineer’s office determined decades ago we could be an electricity-exporting state on wind power alone. But, our utility is into coal – lousy quality coal at that – up to their conservative eyebrows.

Thanks, Honeyman

Northeastern states ask EPA to crack down on Midwest polluters


Eight Northeastern and mid-Atlantic governors on Monday petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require “upwind” states in the Midwest and South to curb ozone-forming pollution from their power plants, which they say travels downwind and poses health risks to their citizens.

They want the EPA to force nine states – Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia – to regulate the emissions that cross into their borders through prevailing winds and contribute to higher ozone levels to the north and east of the upwind states.

The move comes just ahead of a closely watched Supreme Court review of an earlier appeals court rejection of the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

The governors, led by Delaware governor Jack Markell, said the upwind states had failed for decades to install the technology needed to contain emissions of organic compounds and nitrogen oxides which cause asthma and other respiratory diseases and contribute to as much as 98 percent of the ozone air pollution problems in their own states.

The petition asks the EPA to require the upwind states to join them in an “Ozone Transport Region,” which under the federal Clean Air Act would force actions to limit air pollution consistent with the efforts of the “downwind” states…

Besides Delaware the states petitioning for the controls are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont…

In a case being closely monitored by environmentalists and energy companies, the Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider the EPA rule that would have set limits on pollution from coal-fired power plants in 28 states, generally referred to as “upwind states,” that directly affect air quality in other states…

Vickie Patton, general counsel for environmental group Environmental Defense Fund, said it is also in the interest of the upwind states to install pollution controls…”Cleaning up this harmful power plant pollution will mean healthier, longer lives for children, families and communities across the Midwest and the millions of people afflicted in downwind states,” she said.

What is it with creeps who dedicate their lives to profiteering from power generation? I’ve been involved in struggles against these scumbags over half my life. Take it all the way back to acid rain.

The only thing that matters in their contemptible lives is profit-and-loss statements with all the emphasis on that first word. They couldn’t care less about families and individuals in their own state much less someone next door or downwind. They should be required to live in a guard shack immediately downwind of one of their crud-belching coal-fired power plants. A shorter lifespan might change their style.

CO2 levels from generating electricity fall to lowest in 20 years

Carbon dioxide emissions from energy use in the first quarter of this year fell to their lowest level in the U.S. in 20 years, as demand shifted to natural gas-fired generation from coal-fired electricity due to record low gas prices, the energy department said.

Energy-related carbon emissions fell 8 percent from the same period a year ago to 1.134 billion metric tons according to the latest monthly energy review by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) – the energy department’s statistics arm.

In the U.S., the first quarter usually represents the time of year when greenhouse gas emissions are at their highest because of strong demand for fossil-fuel generated power for home heating…

Emissions from coal use fell sharply by 18 percent to 387 million tonnes in the January-March 2012 period – the lowest-first quarter tally since 1983 and the lowest for any quarter since April-June 1986.

The contribution of coal in U.S. energy use is likely to continue its demise, with plant owners and operators reporting to the EIA last month that they plan to retire 27 gigawatts of capacity, or 8.5 percent, at 175 coal-fired facilities between 2012 and 2016.

Looming federal carbon and mercury regulations being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency are also likely to force the retirement of more coal plants.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of greedy, polluting, extractive-industry, corporate barons.

As Robert Muller noted in his OP-Ed piece in the NY TIMES over the weekend, one of the simplest critical steps to take in reducing our political lemming march to the abyss of climate change – is to convert power generation from coal to natural gas. Up front, it reduces CO2 two-thirds from power plants.

A coal-fired power plant, cancer and a small town in Georgia

Robert Maddox is a bulky man with gray hair, a deeply lined face, squinty eyes and a thick Southern accent. He lives in Juliette with his wife, Teresa. The two of them invested their life savings building their home. It’s a large ranch house on several acres, and the plan was the two of them would leave it for their sons and grandchildren. They gave up that dream after Maddox’s mother developed a rare form of ear cancer and died after living at the home for three years.

“I’m not going to bring my grandchildren up in this,” Maddox says. “Anybody who does would be a fool, I think.”

The problem, Maddox explains, is now he and his neighbors are getting sick. For Maddox, the first signs of trouble would come in the middle of the night, when he would wake up with nose bleeds mixed with clear mucus. Then his muscles started twitching, and then he got kidney disease, and then sclerosis of the liver.

His doctor wondered whether Maddox was an alcoholic.

“I don’t drink,” Maddox says dismissively before ticking off his other health problems…

The neighbor who used to live in the now-empty next door house has abdominal cancer. In the house two doors over, a once healthy woman has a form of dementia that’s left her “unrecognizable,” according to Maddox.

“Besides us all being sick, we’ve all been approached by Georgia Power, with them looking to buy us out” Maddox says. “And in that house next door, [Georgia Power] has sealed the well…”

Y’know it’s coming from over there,” he says, nodding in the direction of one of the largest coal plants in the world, right across the two lane highway where Maddox collects his mail.

RTFA for a pretty typical tale of an environment distorted and made lethal by a power generation juggernaut. Georgia Power has been able to take the relatively easy way out of the death and disease they brought to Juliette, Georgia – in the name of electrification and profit. Buying folk’s homes, moving the people out of the way of any class action is always cheaper than law and justice.

But, then, this is Georgia and the concept of law, justice and politicians challenging a wealthy public utility is pretty much laughable.

Saskatchewan to build carbon-capture coal-fired power plant

The pilot plant for the planned new project

The Western Canadian province of Saskatchewan, which depends heavily on burning coal for power, will build one of the world’s first commercial-scale power plants that will capture carbon dioxide emissions, the provincial government said on Tuesday.

Saskatchewan said the power utility it owns, SaskPower, will proceed with a long-planned C$1.24 billion conversion of a generating unit at its Boundary Dam Power Station at the city of Estevan as the province moves to comply with new Canadian requirements for cleaner coal power.

The project will have capacity to produce 110 megawatts of electricity per year, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1 million tonnes — the equivalent of taking 250,000 vehicles off the road each year, the provincial government said…

The province, which is rich in oil, potash and uranium, had been holding off on final approval of the project as it awaited details of new federal regulations for coal plants.

SaskPower’s three coal-fired power plants account for half of the utility’s electricity production…

The new standards will force electricity producers to phase out older, high-emitting coal-fired plants and require newer facilities to match the lower greenhouse-gas emissions of more efficient natural-gas-fired plants. Unless operators make substantial investments to cut emissions from aging coal-burning facilities, they’ll be required to shut down.

TransAlta Corp, the country’s largest operators of coal-fired plants, is developing a near-commercial-scale demonstration project near Edmonton, Alberta, that will also capture carbon.

SaskPower, meanwhile, is working on deals to sell its captured carbon to oil drillers, which can use it to extract oil from the ground, a spokesman for the utility said. Cenovus Energy Inc currently imports carbon from the United States to extract oil at its Weyburn, Saskatchewan, oilfield.

Looking forward to seeing what can be done on a commercial scale. I’ve noted pilot plants here in North America and in Europe; but, I’m curious to see what can be accomplished in the real world.

China prepares to close coal-fired power plants in Beijing

London 1952

China is considering moving the last four coal-fired power and heating plants out of Beijing’s municipal area, replacing them with gas-fired stations…in an effort to improve air quality in the capital…

“While the heat supply to Beijing residents must be ensured, coal-fired stations that need to be relocated must be relocated, and building gas-fired plants with advanced environmental protection technologies is a first choice…”

The four plants, owned by Huaneng Power International, Datang International Power Generation Co Ltd, China Shenhua Energy and Beijing Jingneng Thermal Power Co Ltd, have a total power generating capacity of about 2.7 gigawatts.

The plan, if it is implemented, would further drive up gas demand in Beijing, which already tops demand rankings among Chinese cities. Beijing consumed more than 5 billion cubic meters of gas in 2008…

As a result, construction of gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas facilities and underground storage tanks need to be accelerated, Huang Wei, Vice Mayor, said.

That might take care of half the coal-related smog problem in Beijing. Getting natural gas in sufficient quantity to the city might finally permit the changeover that solved the rest of the same problem for London back in the day, e.g., converting home cooking and heating fires from coal to gas and electricity.

This also is an admission that – regardless of all the talk from coal-dependent countries, whether it be the US or Poland, China or Australia – either current research into cleaning up coal ain’t producing squat or it isn’t producing good enough results quickly enough. So, China is going in the direction of a fuel where the world’s largest reserve is in Iran.

We’re not even prepared to listen to T. Boone Pickens.

Clean air at the expense of waterways

Masontown, PA — For years, residents here complained about the yellow smoke pouring from the tall chimneys of the nearby coal-fired power plant, which left a film on their cars and pebbles of coal waste in their yards. Five states — including New York and New Jersey — sued the plant’s owner, Allegheny Energy, claiming the air pollution was causing respiratory diseases and acid rain.

So three years ago, when Allegheny Energy decided to install scrubbers to clean the plant’s air emissions, environmentalists were overjoyed. The technology would spray water and chemicals through the plant’s chimneys, trapping more than 150,000 tons of pollutants each year before they escaped into the sky.

But the cleaner air has come at a cost. Each day since the equipment was switched on in June, the company has dumped tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater containing chemicals from the scrubbing process into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to 350,000 people and flows into Pittsburgh, 40 miles to the north…

Even as a growing number of coal-burning power plants around the nation have moved to reduce their air emissions, many of them are creating another problem: water pollution. Power plants are the nation’s biggest producer of toxic waste, surpassing industries like plastic and paint manufacturing and chemical plants, according to a New York Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data…

Yet no federal regulations specifically govern the disposal of power plant discharges into waterways or landfills. Some regulators have used laws like the Clean Water Act to combat such pollution. But those laws can prove inadequate, say regulators, because they do not mandate limits on the most dangerous chemicals in power plant waste, like arsenic and lead…

Even when power plant emissions are regulated by the Clean Water Act, plants have often violated that law without paying fines or facing other penalties. Ninety percent of 313 coal-fired power plants that have violated the Clean Water Act since 2004 were not fined or otherwise sanctioned by federal or state regulators, according to a Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency records.

RTFA. It goes on and on – pretty much as you would expect.

It remains cheaper to buy state officials than a congress-critter; so, the ever-popular federalist defense utilizes states rights to fend off the rare attempts to use federal regulations to stop pollution creep.