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Archive for Monday, February 11, 2008

State line big factor in coal plant proposals

February 11, 2008

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— The question often comes up when discussing the proposed coal-burning power plants in western Kansas: If most of the electricity is for people in Colorado, then why not build the project in Colorado?

Or as some have put it: Why should Kansas get all the pollution and almost none of the power?

It's a key question as legislators and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wrestle over the proposal by Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build two 700-megawatt plants near Holcomb.

The Sebelius administration rejected the $3.6 billion proposal, citing concerns with the project's annual emission of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide and its effect on climate change. Pro-coal lawmakers are pushing bills in the Legislature that would reverse that decision.

Although Hays-based Sunflower Electric is behind the deal, one of the 700-megawatt plants will be owned by a Colorado company, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Under the plan, Tri-State would transport the electricity back to Colorado for its customers.

And the other plant will be co-owned by Golden Spread Electric Cooperative of Texas and Sunflower, with all that electricity going out-of-state except for 200 megawatts for Kansans.

Transmission concerns

Lee Boughey, a spokesman for Tri-State, said the reasons for locating its plant in western Kansas are complicated but make financial sense.

Tri-State, which serves 1.4 million customers over a 250,000-square-mile area, decided it needed a plant to provide electricity to its customers in eastern Colorado to keep up with growth demands.

Expanding Sunflower's existing Holcomb facility "offered us an economy of scale," Boughey said. Sunflower already has a 360-megawatt coal-burning plant near Holcomb.

"By working together and sharing a facility, we increase the reliability to our members and Sunflower's," Boughey said.

But since Tri-State has coal-burning plants in western Colorado, wouldn't it make more sense to expand that facility and transport the energy to eastern Colorado? Boughey said it wouldn't.

He said there are "transmission constraints" that prevent moving power from western Colorado to eastern Colorado.

"We need to build a more robust transmission system in eastern Colorado. We are proposing 1,000 miles of lines in eastern Colorado," he said.

Colorado coal climate

But some environmentalists in Kansas have said the reason Tri-State wants to build in Kansas is that it would never be able to win the necessary permits for more coal-burning facilities in the more environmentally tuned political climate of Colorado.

Last year, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter issued a climate-change executive order aimed at reducing global warming pollution by 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Utilities are required to increase renewable energy.

"Colorado is now fully committed to a 'green' energy future across all sectors," said Bruce Driver, an attorney and consultant for Western Resource Advocates, an environmental law and policy center.

"It seems unlikely that the state of Colorado would look favorably upon one or more large new sources of CO2 in the state when state policy is markedly to reduce these emissions well within the lifetime of any new pulverized coal unit," Driver said.

A 750-megawatt coal-fired plant owned by Xcel Energy is under construction in Pueblo, Colo. However, that plant went forward after Xcel agreed to a host of environmental concessions, including adding more stringent pollution controls.

In addition, Xcel recently vowed to replace two older, coal-burning plants in Colorado with a more efficient natural gas facility, reduce electricity demand by nearly 700 megawatts through enhanced energy efficiency, and add 1,050 megawatts of renewable generation.

Jake Meffley, an energy advocate with Environment Colorado, said, "There is a lot of resistance in building any coal-fired plants in Colorado. Generally, people have assumed that placing it in that location (Holcomb) would be easier than Colorado."

But state officials say Colorado has not shut the door to further coal-burning plant development.

"There is no prohibition on constructing coal-fired power plants in Colorado," said Martha Rudolph, director of environmental programs for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "Coal is a concern, as any fossil fuel is."

And Tri-State's Boughey noted that his company is developing a site for a future power plant near Holly in southeastern Colorado. That could be a coal-burning plant, but those plans may be years away, he said.

Of the proposed Sunflower plant, Boughey said it represented state-of-the-art technology and would be among the cleanest coal-burning plants in the country.

"We could get that project permitted in many states, including Colorado," he said.

Comments

Jerry Stubbs 6 years, 10 months ago

If they can get the plant 'permitted' in Colorado, they had better do it, because we don't want it in Kansas!

tir 6 years, 10 months ago

CO2 emissions don't care about state lines or international boundaries. Building CO2-emitting coal-fired power plants in Colorado or Missouri rather than in Kansas won't keep the CO2's ill effects out of our state, or out of the rest of the world, either. Greenhouse gases are a global problem. We all need to be thinking globally as we act locally.

gccs14r 6 years, 10 months ago

"And in such a situation, Kansas would get all of the detriments of CO2 pollution, but NONE of the benefits of jobs, tax base for schools and cities, and energy economy, in an area that could use them."

Not accelerating the depletion of the aquifer out there is a huge intangible benefit to not siting the plants in Kansas.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

Coal plants are NEVER clean in any shape of form . That goes for old and new coal plants. I would rather have gas, nuclear, and wind compared with a coal plant anyday of the week! The ratepayers will have to pay for this Sunflower blunder if CO2 regulations come about in the near future. All pulverized coal plants will become dinosaurs including those in NE Kansas.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

EDIT: Coal plants are never clean in any shape or form.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

"Cjonline reports that the bill passed the senate.

Further, they stripped of all the emission regulations and stripped the agency of regulating issues like this one."

Unbelievable. This is not good news. It's all political fun and games again, eh?

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

http://cjonline.com/stories/021108/bre_energy.shtml

"The Senate Utilities Committee today passed a stripped-down energy bill allowing expansion of a coal-fired power plant in western Kansas but removing proposed regulations on carbon dioxide emissions."

"The House Energy and Utilities Committee will debate and possibly vote on their version of the bill Tuesday. Members of the committee had come to Friday's meeting expecting to work the bill, but chairman Carl Holmes, R-Liberal, told members he was ordered not to do so."

Yet another huge source of CO2 for Kansas. The ratepayers will have to pay for this Sunflower blunder once CO2 regulations come about in the near future. All pulverized coal plants are dinosaurs because they can neither capture nor sequester CO2 emissions. I dislike coal plants immensely and would rather see our energy future in Kansas powered by wind, solar, nuclear, and natural gas. ALL coal plants emit mercury that contaminates our water bodies.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

"Where can I buy coal to heat my barn and garage?"

Move to West Virginia...

Kansas will be bypassed by other states in terms of developing renewable sources of energy like wind. Also, the ratepayers will pay for Sunflower's blunder for using outdated pulverized technology. Regulations on CO2 are coming, and old technology is expensive to modify.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

Mr_Values, Apparently you don't understand that it is expensive to transport coal long distances. Transportation costs will continue to increase into the future as energy prices increase. CO2 regulation in the near future will affect ALL pulverized coal plants, including those in NE Kansas. Coal is NOT clean and never will be clean. Why? Even the "cleanest" coal plants produce SO2, NOx, CO2, and mercury.

gccs14r 6 years, 10 months ago

Reduce consumption. Eliminate the need for more power plants.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

Good points, belexus 73. This plant will fuel the Front Range sprawl in Colorado while we get another source of CO2, SO2, NOx, and mercury in KS. Of course our old coal plants are quite polluting as well. KS is becoming the coal state of the Plains. The wind energy projects will go to more progressive states that have a tougher stance on coal plants and CO2.

Bill Griffith 6 years, 10 months ago

Mercury will probably not be an issue with regards to the Sunflower air permit. They are planning on using BACT on mercury. I think the promulgation of new regs by the EPA (18-24 months) will affect Westar and KCPL to a larger degree. That's not to say that any new coal plant is not a source of mercury, just if you would like to compare the ones by our electric producers. I think this might be the final nail in the coffin for KCPL's Montrose facility in Missouri-time will tell.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

IGW, I know what you are talking about, but what do you think about this Supreme Court decision? http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/0:

Bill Griffith 6 years, 10 months ago

I am very skeptical of Tri-State's Mr. Boughey, who says that the plant could be sited in Colorado. There has not been a new one sited there since the RPS passed in Colorado. Plus, it begs the question, if Colorado could site it there, how come they did not do that in the first place and save transmission costs. Lastly, I have heard or read that the environmental groups will put a measure on the ballot that would bar new coal fired power plants and that they would possibly litigate over transmission issues as well.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

"Coal is clean. Transportation is cost effective."

NO, it is not clean. Try eating a fish out of a water body in this state. Mercury contaminates all of our water bodies and pollutes our air. Apprently you have not seen the oldest coal plants in this state.

Energy efficiency and conservation will slow electricity growth demand down. Kansas only needs 15% of this electricity.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

"I think the promulgation of new regs by the EPA (18-24 months) will affect Westar and KCPL to a larger degree."

I agree with that.

"I think this might be the final nail in the coffin for KCPL's Montrose facility in Missouri-time will tell."

Is that plant in Jackson County, MO? I know that KCP&L is expanding the Iatan coal plant in Platte County.

Bill Griffith 6 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Values, whether you read local polls or national ones, the folks that are concerned about climate change are in the majority. That is factual. You might have better spin if you portray you and your supporters as minorities facing martyrdom-just a thought. Also, neither Gore nor other supporters of climate change legislation have ever said that the United States is the only one that needs to clean up their act. As far as coal having the technology to be climate friendly, there is only a 30% or so increase in CO2 reduction from BACT available now and carbon sequestration. Also, we do have severe infrastructure hurdles for sequestration. I am not against sequestration, but believe it is research that needs to be done for taking CO2 out of the atmosphere that has already been emitted. I think we can get technology right for less of a price than what is called clean coal for new electrical power sources.

Bill Griffith 6 years, 10 months ago

A good company website to see what local projects they have been working on. The Montrose work is a few years back, I believe. I don't think KCPL is putting any new money into that facility until they decide what the heck they are going to do with it.

Bill Griffith 6 years, 10 months ago

The KCPL Montrose facility is basically 50-70 miles east of Osawatomie. It is in the vicinity of Clinton, Missouri. I think it is around 60 years old. I believe KCPL has to come to a decision on Montrose sometime in 2008. It was part of the settlement that KCPL did with Concerned Citizens of Platte County and the Sierra Club.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

"The Senate Utilities Committee today passed a stripped-down energy bill allowing expansion of a coal-fired power plant in western Kansas but removing proposed regulations on carbon dioxide emissions."

The ratepayers will be in for a shock if CO2 becomes regulated. All pulverized coal plants will immediately become dinosaurs like I have said before.

It is time for some light reading: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/06pdf/05-1120.pdf

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

belexus, That plant is near Clinton. You are correct. Here is some other information I found: I don't know how relevant it is or not. http://www.segainc.com/elec_util.html

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

"A good company website to see what local projects they have been working on. The Montrose work is a few years back, I believe. I don't think KCPL is putting any new money into that facility until they decide what the heck they are going to do with it."

Yes, I believe that coal plant is even older than the LEC.

Bill Griffith 6 years, 10 months ago

If I had to pick a number, I would say 25 dollars a ton for CO2 would kill all new coal projects. That is based on today's price of contstructing a coal plant and the cost of mining and transporting coal. Coal is predicted to go up markedly in price over the next three years according to many industry sources.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

What do you think of these recent developments IGW? Why hasn't the LJW sent out an updated article yet??? I saw the link on the Topeka website several hours ago, and was alerted to it by another poster on here.

Bill Griffith 6 years, 10 months ago

IGW, I am not sure if Holly is a virgin-but keep her away from me as I am married and don't want to spend time making license plates. As for your assertion that RPS are the only reason that coal plants could not be built in Colorado, remember I added that the enviros have a very strong presence out there. You are probably right that Sunflower had done the preliminary work with regards to their previous application (Sandsage?). I still wonder about the transmission cost differential.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

Iowa and Texas will continue to build wind farms at a very fast rate. I think Kansas will really be at a disadvantage in terms of economic development in very rural counties based on this Holcomb plant proposed expansion.

Bill Griffith 6 years, 10 months ago

Well, as far as the Colorado environmental groups I cited, the petition threat I read about when I was in Denver in May(?). That is the extent of my knowledge of that. It does pass my smell test as Colorado does have a petition process to put items on the ballot. I have heard something about the enviros out there attempting something on the transmission issue, but I cannot remember the source right now. Feel free to be skeptical, since I cannot recall the source nor the credibility of it. The first item was in print.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

I have never been to Holly, CO. It is located in Prowers County CO near the KS state line.

Here is a picture of Holly, CO Population 987. http://www.city-data.com/picfilesv/picv13553.php

Bill Griffith 6 years, 10 months ago

IGW, I agree that transmission costs could be abit higher coming the distance you sited. Not being a transmission expert, I wouldn't know what the final customer cost would be. However, the folks would also be facing a rate increase due to some type of cap and trade system that will pass Congress. All three presidential candidates are in favor of a system such as this. There are no shareholders to absorb some of the costs and it would be a straight pass through.

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

IGW, I have been all through Kansas, and to many very small towns. Don't start this urban vs rural debate again with me. I was not the one that brought it up. I am also likely leaving KS in the near future because most of my family lives elsewhere.

hornhunter 6 years, 10 months ago

belexus, There has not been a new one sited there since the RPS passed in Colorado. When was the RPS passed? gccs14r says, Not accelerating the depletion of the aquifer out there is a huge intangible benefit to not siting the plants in Kansas. Are you trying to say that the aquifer stops at the state line? DA

snowWI 6 years, 10 months ago

The House Energy and Utilities Commitee votes on their version of the bill tommorrow.

Bill Griffith 6 years, 10 months ago

Hornhunter, good point that the RPS is fairly new. However, Tri-State cancelled one coal plant and switched to wind and natural gas for their future plans.

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