Archive for Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Energy advance

The comprehensive energy legislation passed last week, may play an important role in the state’s future economic development.

May 12, 2009


The timing may have been coincidental, but last week’s announcement that a new wind turbine production plant would be built in Hutchinson is an example of the kind of opportunities Kansas now is in a position to take advantage of.

Just a day after Kansas legislators and Gov. Mark Parkinson announced they had agreed on a compromise energy bill, Siemens, a company based in Munich, Germany, announced it would start construction by August of a new 30,000-square-foot wind turbine plant in Hutchinson. The plant is expected to employ 400 workers and turn out 650 units a year once production gets under way. Too bad it isn’t coming to Lawrence.

Siemens’ project might not have been contingent on renewable energy legislation that was passed later in the week, but the new laws certainly would make the state more attractive to Siemens or other similar businesses. The main focus last week was on the bill that allowed construction of a coal-fired electrical plant in southwest Kansas, but probably more important to the state’s future was the companion legislation that, among other things, provided for net metering of utilities and set renewable portfolio standards for the state.

Such measures send the message that Kansas is ready to be a player in the renewable energy business. It’s the signal that will allow the state to compete against other states not only for projects that directly generate alternative energy, but for companies, like Siemens, that provide the technology to support those efforts.

The Siemens plant will produce 90-ton nacelle units that are mounted on towers and support the rotors of the wind turbines. It already has a plant in Fort Madison, Iowa, that produces rotor blades. It only makes sense for the company to strengthen its presence in the U.S., closer to customers in what one Siemens official called “one of the world’s fastest growing wind energy markets.”

Kansas had fallen behind other Midwestern states in terms of establishing policies, such as renewable portfolio standards, that require a set percentage of a utility’s power plant capacity to come from renewable sources by a given date. While Colorado set a standard of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 and Missouri required 15 percent by 2021, Kansas had done nothing. The legislation Parkinson is expected to sign would match Colorado’s requirement.

Passing these standards shows companies that Kansas has made a commitment to wind power and other alternative energies. It doesn’t guarantee the state can attract more energy-related companies, but it at least gets us in the game.


Richard Heckler 9 years ago

Good for Hutchinson. Was Lawrence not in the running? If not what happened?

I was told by Westar staff people at a local energy fair that if Kansas ratepayers would voluntarily subscribe to implementing energy conservation meansures in our homes and business Kansas likely would not need MORE power plants just cleaner power sources.

Yes in the same breath it was acknowledged that Kansas would/should invest in cleaner energy sources.

Clean coal is not available and will not be for many years. So called clean coal is a very very expensive source so much so that the Bush admin cut funding to a project in Illinois due to cost overruns. Grab your wallets!

If the coal plant is not killed due to high construction costs it will take an estimated 10 years to build.

CatFan 9 years ago

The coal plant could be built in about 4 1/2 years following groundbreaking, but lawsuits may delay the start. The entire process could take 7-10 years.

Even without any growth in demand, we will still need new power plants to replace the old. We trade cars in 10 years or less, so why should we think that a power plant, operating nearly continuously, should last forever? Most plants in the state are decades old. Simply replacing the old with new, efficient designs burning the same fuel could do a lot for the environment.

Energy efficiency & conservation will not significantly reduce the total need for energy, but they should be effective in slowing the growth in demand.

There is some irony in Hutchison being chosen for the wind turbine factory. Hutch has the benefit of Westar electric rates, among the lowest in the state because they depend on coal. Many factors influence the choice of an industrial site, and one of those is the price of energy. Hutch would have been much less attractive if it depended only on intermittent wind and expensive gas generation.

jafs 9 years ago


Why will energy efficiency and conservation not "significantly" reduce the total need for energy?

If we use less, we need less.


CatFan 9 years ago

Jafs, True, using less means needing less. I'm referring to results of many energy efficiency potential studies. What is technically feasible is not always economically feasible. And even what is economically feasible will not always be adopted by consumers for a variety of reasons. Most potential studies I've seen just talk about reducing growth, not the absolute level of use.

If the hybrid/electric car takes off, demand will grow a lot. But, I've read that CO2 emissions from a coal-fueled electric car will be about half that of a standard gasoline model.

Bob Hechlor 9 years ago

“The Dirty Facts on “Clean Coal abec accce americas power clean coal climate change coal coal industry environment global warming Top Ten Reasons Clean Coal is Dirty ––––––––––––––––––––––––––— #1: “Clean” Coal Increases Rates of Disease The United States burns more than a billion tons of coal each year – that’s 20 pounds of coal for every person in the country, every day. According to the American Lung Association, 24,000 people a year die prematurely because of pollution from coal-fired power plants. And every year 38,000 heart attacks, 12,000 hospital admissions and an additional 550,000 asthma attacks result from power plant pollution. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––— #2: “Clean” Coal Kills Jobs Despite coal industry claims that coal mining creates lots of jobs, the truth is that coal mining employment has been declining for decades, due to increased use of machinery instead of manpower. In West Virginia alone, coal mining employment has plummeted from 126,000 miners in 1948 (who produced 168 million tons of coal), to just 15,000 miners employed in 2005 (who, with the help of machinery, produced 128 million tons of coal). ––––––––––––––––––––––––––— #3: Burning “Clean” Coal Emits Mercury Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of human-generated mercury pollution in the U.S. Mercury emissions from electrical generation continues to rise. Mercury in mothers' blood and breast milk can interfere with the development of babies' brains and neurological systems and can lead to learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, problems with coordination, lowered IQ and even mental retardation.” (Rest of quote below)

4: Burning “Clean” Coal is Fuel for Global Warming The U.S. produces about 25 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Burning coal contributes 40 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions. Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel. According to the United Nations Environment Program, coal emits around 1.7 times as much carbon per unit of energy when burned as does natural gas and 1.25 times as much as oil. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––— #5: “Clean” Coal Kills Miners The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 12,000 coal miners died from black lung disease between 1992 and 2002"

Bob Hechlor 9 years ago (for above and below)

6: “Clean” Coal Wastes Huge Quantities of Water Coal mining requires an estimated 70 to 260 million gallons of water every day. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––— #7: “Clean” Coal Pollutes Seafood and Freshwater Fish 49 U.S. states have issued fish consumption advisories due to high mercury concentrations in freshwater bodies throughout the country. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of human-generated mercury pollution in the U.S.

8: “Clean” Coal Destroys Mountains Instead of traditional mining, many coal companies now use mountaintop removal to extract coal. Coal companies are increasingly using this method because it allows for almost complete recovery of coal seams while reducing the number of workers required to a fraction of what conventional methods require. Mountaintop removal involves clear cutting native hardwood forests, using dynamite to blast away as much as 800-1000 feet of mountaintop, and then dumping the waste into nearby valleys, often burying streams. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––— #9: “Clean” Coal Kills Freshwater Streams More than 1,200 miles of Appalachian streams have been buried or damaged by mountaintop removal mining. At least 724 miles of streams were completely buried by valley fills from Appalachian mountaintop removal between 1985 and 2001. 400,000 acres of rich and diverse temperate forests have been destroyed during the same time period as a result of mountaintop mining in Appalachia. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––— #10: “Clean” Coal Costs Billions in Taxpayer Subsidies The U.S. government continues to aggressively fund coal-related projects despite all that is known about coal’s impacts on health, climate and the economy. The Department of Energy is currently seeking $648 million for “clean coal” projects in its 2009 budget request, “representing the largest budget request for coal RD&D in over 25 years.”

Bob Hechlor 9 years ago

Because the governor, as well as legislators and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce did not do, was look into other options for the production of energy. The likely reason is that they have a vested interest in the status quo. That would be a conflict of interest, however, in Kansas, it is the norm.

Bob Hechlor 9 years ago

"Kansas’ new governor, in office less than a week, wasted no time before cozying up to the coal industry and announcing a surprise deal to let Sunflower Electric build a huge new coal-fired power plant on the western plains.

Under the agreement, expected to be released publicly today, Sunflower's supporters in the Legislature will approve a package of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. But the trade-off of allowing the new power plant will short-change Kansans, sending its pollution pouring across their state while about 80 percent of the power produced is shipped elsewhere.

The governor's plan will also remove the only roadblock currently preventing the construction of more coal-fired power plants in Kansas: the authority of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby to reject power plant air permits based on carbon dioxide emissions."

devobrun 9 years ago

rshrink refers us to a blog named DeSmogblog. This blog is run by Jim Hoggan.

He is a PR man who is disturbed by PR. His guilt results from the PR from "skeptics" PR people. Thus, he is using his PR skill to counter the bad PR people.

But it is all PR. He is a lawyer and PR man.

PR blogs are not good sources of scientific "facts".

The IPCC report should be a scientific document, but it is written by former scientists who are now science facilitators. Government ministers, government bureaucrats, leaders of government-sponsored research institutions all stand to benefit from a consolidation of political power toward themselves. rshrink is swayed by blogs that predict terrible things resulting from our use of coal.

I don't believe you rshrink. I don't believe Jim Hoggan. I don't believe the IPCC. I am an engineer and scientist, not a lawyer. I don't believe the doom and gloom predictions of Jim Hoggan, Jim Hansen, or the IPCC because I have a 30 year experience with computer models. The GCMs used to predict global warming are bad science. The computer models that relate coal emissions to birth defects, asthma, and other human maladies are also bad science.

They are untestable conjectures. PR people like Hoggan put their faith in them because of their feelings, not scientific knowledge.

Decades ago, people like Walter Cronkite warned of the news business becoming dominated by silly reports and hype. This has come to pass. So too has the scientific world. The rigor of past scientific ages has succumbed to hype. rshrink bought into the hype.

Global warming is the science version of Brittany Spears.

jafs 9 years ago


It's probably a waste of time, but...

Scientists get your respect, but former scientists don't?

Other than giving governments the power to regulate emissions, what "consolidation of political power" are you referring to?

How can you deny the obvious environmental problems with coal? To start with, we have the problems with mining the coal in the first place.

While I'm sure that computer models are not 100% accurate, are they not a useful tool? What would you substitute when trying to predict outcomes?

Bob Hechlor 9 years ago

devobrun, any excuse to ignore the obvious. The idea is to read all of the information. There are negatives for coal which show up repeatedly. So, which of the refutations of the 10 myths are you okay to live with?

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