Archive for Friday, April 6, 2007

New power plant possible

Project could double production of hydroelectric energy

April 6, 2007

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Stephen Hill, president of Bowersock Mills and Power Co., discusses Thursday's tour and potential for expansion. Enlarge video

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Hill describes his company's plant at the northern edge of downtown, and the history of the company Enlarge video

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Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson discusses how it feels to hold statewide office after switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. Enlarge video

from left, state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, and Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson listen to Stephen Hill, president of Bowersock Mills and Power Co., at right, describe how the hydroelectric plant's generators produce electricity from the Kansas River. In the background is Sarah Hill-Nelson, Hill's daughter and Bowersock's secretary/treasurer. The company is examining the prospects for building a new power plant on the north side of the river.

from left, state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, and Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson listen to Stephen Hill, president of Bowersock Mills and Power Co., at right, describe how the hydroelectric plant's generators produce electricity from the Kansas River. In the background is Sarah Hill-Nelson, Hill's daughter and Bowersock's secretary/treasurer. The company is examining the prospects for building a new power plant on the north side of the river.

More than a century after J.D. Bowersock rebuilt his hydroelectric power plant at the edge of downtown, Bowersock's great-grandson is looking into building another one.

Stephen Hill, president of Bowersock Mills and Power Co., said his company was examining the feasibility of building a new generation plant along the north side of the river, alongside the Bowersock Dam just east of and below the Massachusetts Street bridge.

The project would be expected to cost $3 million to $4 million, Hill said, and take up to three years for planning, licensing, design and construction.

The potential payoff: The ability to double the company's generation of renewable energy, taking advantage of water already flowing through a spillway on the other side of the river from Bowersock's existing plant, which would remain in operation.

"There is a lot of water passing by today that we're not using," Hill said during a tour of the plant Thursday morning with Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson and state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence. "If we had another plant on the north bank of the river, it would be operating full out and we'd be operating full out."

Parkinson visited the Bowersock plant as part of his ongoing efforts to understand and promote production and use of alternative energy in the state, included in Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' charge when she appointed Parkinson to serve as co-chairman of the Kansas Energy Council.

During the tour, Parkinson told Hill he would be willing to get representatives from all appropriate state regulatory agencies to sit "at the same table" to assist Bowersock Mills in its expansion efforts. Parkinson also offered to contact members of the state's congressional delegation to see about assisting with federal regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Parkinson concedes that hydroelectric power pales in comparison to existing and potential capacity for wind-generated energy in Kansas.

Not that the disparity should frustrate Hill, Parkinson said. Among the advantages of hydroelectric generation is that equipment and plants can last for "hundreds of years," and, as with other forms of renewable energy, people increasingly are willing to pay a premium for so-called "green" power.

"It's definitely a piece of the solution," Parkinson said.

Hill and his daughter, Bowersock secretary/treasurer Sarah Hill-Nelson, took time Thursday morning to show off the plant's seven turbines, the oldest of which dates to 1918. They noted with pride that a mechanical governor for one of the turbines had been rebuilt with assistance from the Kansas University School of Engineering, and that the plant's control board - made by General Electric - remains in operation despite a rather sizable barrier when it comes to ordering replacement parts.

"It's so old that they've lost all the records," said Hill, who figures that much of the board dates back 40 to 50 years.

While the existing plant remains effective - its turbines are "as efficient as any that could be built today," Hill said - the new plant would take advantage of advanced technology. The new plant likely would require only three turbines, each larger than those that already turn 109 times per minute so that they stay in sync with an electric grid fed by Westar's Lawrence Energy Center and other plants.

During the tour, Hill talked as if pursuing construction of a second plant was a certainty. But afterward, he cautioned that while rising energy prices, favorable tax incentives and increasing consumer acceptance made this the first time that an expansion might work, he still has plenty of numbers to crunch.

"If we can't do it right now, then maybe in two to three years it might work," Hill said.

Comments

JohnBrown 8 years ago

It's the only hydro in Kansas. Now we ought to be talking about converting the Farmland site into a biofuels plant.

hipper_than_hip 8 years ago

Hydro is just too iffy for KS with the Corps controlling the amount of water in the KS river. I mean they're willing to drain Perry lake so someone can float barges on the Mississippi, right? Someone once pitched a small water turbine on the outfall of Clinton Lake, but they Corps couldn't/wouldn't guarantee the necessary water to make it run.

Have you been downwind of a biofuel plant? There's nothing quite like the smell of fermenting corn. I like the idea of biofuel, but I'm not sure having a refinery on the edge of town is a good idea safety-wise. Having an explosives plant on the edge of town wasn't such a great idea either, but the plant was there long before Lawrence grew up around it.

sourpuss 8 years ago

Sounds like a great idea and the price is right. Even if it couldn't run all the time, we should use whatever resources we can and if unused water is often flowing through the dam, we should harness it.

Jamesaust 8 years ago

Perhaps this is just the thing to use as an example to get our federal representatives to alter the purpose of the Corps of Engineers from river traffic to alternative energy production. After all, the priorities of the Corps are whatever the Congress sets for them by law. Where are Roberts, Brownback, Boyda, and Moore on this?

Janet Lowther 8 years ago

Actually, the stickey wicket on the Clinton hydro proposal was that the Corps insisted on being paid for the water, never mind the fact they were going to send it downstream anyway. . .

Hydro power in Kansas is prone to being seasonal: An otherwise worthwhile hydro site in Lowell was abandoned about 40 years ago largely because it couldn't efficiently run 24/7, which isn't a problem with coal, oil or gas plants.

roger_o_thornhill 8 years ago

sourpuss--that is one of the most quintiessentially American things I've read. If something exists, we should use it.

hujiko 8 years ago

the 7 cfs they release at clinton probably wouldnt be alot of renewable energy, and the reason besides flood control is for water supply... so you'd have to sacrifice your showers and tap water for even a slight decrease in carbon emissions

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