Archive for Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bowersock power plant signs major deal with Kansas City-based utility

An architectural rendering of the new hydroelectric power plant that Bowersock Mills and Power Company proposes to build on the banks of the Kansas River.

An architectural rendering of the new hydroelectric power plant that Bowersock Mills and Power Company proposes to build on the banks of the Kansas River.

November 4, 2010, 11:18 a.m. Updated November 4, 2010, 6:34 p.m.


The prospect of a new $20 million hydroelectric power plant that would tower over Lawrence’s north bank of the Kansas River appeared more likely on Thursday.

For that, lovers of green power have the growth of a speedway, shoppers and homes in Wyandotte County partially to thank.

Lawrence-based Bowersock Mills & Power Company confirmed Thursday that it had signed a 25-year deal to sell its current and future green power to the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities, which provides electricity to the growing portions of Wyandotte County.

The deal keeps alive a plan by Bowersock to build a $20 million hydroelectric plant just east of the downtown Kansas River bridges and directly across the river from Bowersock’s 132-year old plant on the south bank.

“This was a critical, critical hurdle for the project,” said Bowersock co-owner Sarah Hill Nelson. “For the last few weeks, my heart has felt like it has been in a vise.”

Now, the project becomes a race against time. Bowersock has been awarded access to more than $23 million in federal bonds to finance the project, but the majority of them come with the requirement that buyers for the bonds must be found before the end of the year.

“We have engaged a legal team to get to work and get those bonds sold,” Hill-Nelson said. “But it is definitely a time press for everyone.”

The city of Lawrence already has agreed to serve as a conduit for selling a majority of the bonds. The city will not be financially backing any of the bonds. City leaders, though, said the city has much to gain from the project.

“It can be tremendously important to the city,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “The new project will make us a real leader in the Midwest in terms of production of renewable energy.”

Cromwell said the project also could provide the city an important image boost as it tries to attract more companies in the green-energy industry. Cromwell said the city has been on the “short list” for several green industry projects in the recent past.

The new plant would be highly visible. Plans call for the plant — which would have four turbines and would triple the amount of electricity currently produced by Bowersock — to stand 60 feet tall. That would make it just slightly taller than the Kansas River bridges that would be just a few yards from the plant.

The project is expected to add one full-time employee to Bowersock’s operations, but would be a major employer during the construction project.

The plant already has received the necessary federal license. If the bonds are sold in a timely manner, construction would begin in early 2011.

A spokesman with the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities said the organization was excited about partnering with Bowersock. The green power that BPU purchases from Bowersock is expected to be enough to supply electricity to 3,300 homes for a year and eliminate about 188 railcars of coal.

“We’re always looking for an opportunity to park some coal cars,” said David Mehlhaff, public affairs officer for BPU. “We spend about $5 million a month on coal alone, and if we can use something that puts less carbon in the air, we’re interested in doing that.”

Once BPU begins purchasing power from Bowersock, more than 15 percent of BPU’s power will come from renewable sources.

“We feel like this will put us in a good position for the future,” Mehlhaff said.

The new deal will cause Bowersock to end in 2012 its program of offering green tags for sale to the public. The green tags — which was a way for people to pay for the production of green energy to help offset their carbon footprint — won’t be available because BPU will purchasing the entire production capacity of the two Bowersock plants.

The new deal also will mean that technically power produced in Downtown Lawrence won’t be used anywhere in Lawrence. Hill-Nelson said Bowersock did approach local electric provider Westar Energy, but she said a deal was not able to be struck.

“We are just very grateful for how hard the Board of Public Utilities has worked to make this deal happen,” Hill-Nelson said. “We feel like they have a great vision for the future.”


Keith 7 years, 5 months ago

"The Kansas City Board of Public Utilities finalized the deal Wednesday evening to purchase all of the power Bowersock produces at its existing plant in downtown Lawrence and at a proposed plant on the north banks of the Kaw. "

Does this mean the end of their local 'buy green' energy offset program? If KC is buying all their output, what's left to be 'green' with?

Keith 7 years, 5 months ago

Now that the story has been updated, I guess I have my answer.

guess_again 7 years, 5 months ago

Oh this is funny. Aren't all the Lawrence greens just shocked that power go across state lines, especially as it regards the SW Kansas coal plant?

If so, they should be decrying and opposing this sale of power to Missouri. And yes, consumer1, it is especially ironic since the operation of the plant is directly subsidized by the taxpayers of Lawrence.

Don't get me wrong, I support the Hills and this enterprise. I just think it calls out the hypocrisy of those in Lawrence as it regards the coal plant.

So long as I see all those flat screen TV's flying out of Best Buys and into Lawrence homes (the largest portion of the growth of electrical domestic demand are from these) I think that statements by the City Commission, by Thad from United Ministries, by the CEP, and others, are pretty gratuitous and do not really address the root of the problem of the need for more power in the US.

gccs14r 7 years, 5 months ago

"So long as I see all those flat screen TV's flying out of Best Buys and into Lawrence homes..."

LCD TVs consume less electricity than a CRT of equivalent size. My old CRT consumed 180W and my LCD consumes 135W.

MyName 7 years, 5 months ago

How is this "hypocritical" exactly? It's just as easy to build a coal plant in Southeastern Colorado as it is in SW Kansas, so clearly the only reason why the electrical companies want to build there is because they think they can get clearance for something in Kansas that no one in Colorado wants (which is a power plant that produces a bunch of air pollution).

On the other hand, you can't take a big dam and haul it down to another part of the river. It's apples and oranges.

littlexav 7 years, 5 months ago

KCBPU is in Wyandotte County, KS. The energy is not going to Missouri.

Even if the energy WAS going to Missouri, this is "green" energy so there's no hipocracy.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 5 months ago

CEP is putting its money where its mouth is by implementing innovative ee programs in Kansas communities. I think they are far from gratuitious and are serious about addressing power issues. Demand has been fairly flat across the U.S. even before the recession. Projections as we go into recovery are for meager power needs at best.

Clark Coan 7 years, 5 months ago

No, the power is going to Kansas City , KANSAS!!!

blindrabbit 7 years, 5 months ago

I'm sure there will be a lot of teeth gnashing about the Bowersock power being produced in Kansas and consumed by Missouri. Whiners will still feel good about Holcomb depleting our water and polluting Kansas air to sell KW's to smarter Colorado and Oklahoma.

Did anyone notice that a coal burning power plant in Canon City, Colorado (LJW story a few days ago) has decided to cease operations because it cannot meet tighter air regulations in Colorado. The offset will be made-up because of out-of-state power generation (i.e. Kansas). Will the few increased jobs in Western Kansas be offset by diminished air quality East of there (i.e. Eastern Kansas)??

Who is the wiser Colorado or Kansas!!

Bill Griffith 7 years, 5 months ago

There will be no gnashing of teeth other than by geography teachers who would point out that Wyandotte County is in Kansas City, Kansas.....

Jonathan Kealing 7 years, 5 months ago

The Board of Public Utility serves Kansas City, Kan.

Edwin Rothrock 7 years, 5 months ago

The dam is needed to make sure the water level at the water treatment plant intakes stays high enough.

littlexav 7 years, 5 months ago

Good to know! I always wondered why there was a dam on the river, since the head is usually only a few feet.

gccs14r 7 years, 5 months ago

The real reason there's a dam on the river is because the railroads at the time didn't like having to compete with boats to move freight. It's a happy accident that it made it a bit easier to draw drinking water from the river.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 5 months ago

Don't believe it. The Kaw channel is so chock-full of sand bars and so shallow that I think that there was only a handful of steam boats ever to make it up to Lawrence, and it never was a serious route for freight to be shipped. The areas around Lawrence faced a severe power shortage due to the paltry supply of local lumber and coal being quickly used up by settlers, so the river was turned to for mechanical power at first, followed by electricity. You should read your local history books, gccs!

hipper_than_hip 7 years, 5 months ago

Both of you are correct. The railroad wanted a monopoly on moving people and cargo, so they built a railroad bridge across the river that was too low to allow steamboats to pass under. Later when Lawrence needed power, the dam was built. More than a "handful" of steamboats came up the river. In fact, steamboats delivered cargo and passengers to far west as Manhattan on a regular basis. How do you think Charles Robinson got to Lawrence? It was by steamboat.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 5 months ago

Sorry to nitpick, hip, but you're wrong--just check out the facts in the following article:

Number of steamboats known to have plied the Kansas River: 34, between the years 1854 and 1866. That's an average of less than 3 per year during that 12 year period.

1866 was the last year that a steamboat made it up the Kaw from KC to Lawrence, under contract to ship stuff upstream while a railroad bridge was being repaired due to flood damage.

The year they began to build Bowersock Dam: 1872, 6 years after the last steamboat managed to dodge the sandbars to get this far upstream.

gccs14r 7 years, 5 months ago

You're misreading that. It was 34 different boats providing varying levels of service, not 34 trips.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 5 months ago

Yes, that could easily be the case, upon re-reading that sentence. The seasonal drop off in water flow in the late summer and fall combined with ice in the winter as well as the shifting sandbars limited real steamboat transportation of freight on the Kaw to spring and wet summers during the 12 short years of steamboat trade on the river, tho. And considering there was a 6 year lag between the beginnings of the Bowersock dam and the last steamboat on the Kaw, you can't really say the dam was a ploy by the railroads to stop the steamboat travel--it was already history. And Bowersock has always been about creating energy--mechanical, then electrical--for this area. Check out their online history for more information.

day 7 years, 5 months ago

That isn't how it works. Unless you build specific power lines, like they are going to do in Western Kansas to Colorado, you can't really decide which power to buy. Green Tags are simply a power offset. In other words if you pay for offsets it means that your power company sends you their normal power (coal). Then they use the extra money that you pay to purchase high priced green power from someone like Bowersock. The green producer then simply puts the power on the grid. No one knows where it goes.

Keith 7 years, 5 months ago

Can they sell more than 100% of their output as offsets, or is there a limit?

lawrence267 7 years, 5 months ago

The power goes into one pool. It's true that you can't tell where your exact power comes from, but you're still supporting renewable energy.

lgreen17 7 years, 5 months ago

wish the residents of north lawrence who have to put up with all the construction (again) would get the benefit of the power that's generated.

LadyJ 7 years, 5 months ago

How about a "nuisance" discount on the property taxes?

budwhysir 7 years, 5 months ago

this is off the grid..... punn intended cause it is late and I see no reason to get worked up this late at night, over such a trivial free enterprise plan.

Danimal 7 years, 5 months ago

I've always been a fan of putting a power plant on the north shore, I think it's a great idea. However, I have to say, that thing is butt ugly. Couldn't they come up with something a little less obtrusive? Or at least interesting to look at? Why is modern architecture so reliably dull and unattractive?

LadyJ 7 years, 5 months ago

Agreed. Aren't there design rules builders have to follow or get approved by the planning commission?

inklines 7 years, 5 months ago

If you want to benefit from this plan then buy the bonds. Will pre-purchased Green Tags be exchangeable with bonds?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

Westar has stated at local energy fairs Kansas does not need more power just cleaner power.

That's the way it is across the nation. Energy conservation is also a key. The less consumers cut back the more energy producers will charge.

As we speak China is on a huge buying spree. Yes they are buying up large blocks of oil reserves which will increase gasoline prices after January 1.

Te question is when can Lawrence residents buy Bowersock energy? I'm ready to switch. Bring me wind energy or bowersock energy.

leftylucky 7 years, 5 months ago

Bowersock received energy tax credits for a plant that has not been built. Do the tax credits also pass on to the KC buyer? Pretty sweet deal. Repair the damn at the ctiy cost for Bowersock (which makes around seven hundred thousand dollars a year). Does Bowersock own the damn and spillway? How can someone own the river?

ENGWOOD 7 years, 5 months ago

Stop the plant it will kill endangered guppies and pollute the water. Where is the Sierra Club. You can't sell power across County Lines.

Bladerunner 7 years, 5 months ago

Yes! Surely someone will noticed an endangered Spotted Tree Guppy and put a stop to this progressive madness!

Ken Lassman 7 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like you guys have been eating too many fish out of the Kaw....

Flap Doodle 7 years, 5 months ago

There's no paper over here. Could somebody pass me a carbon credit?

ralphralph 7 years, 5 months ago

What will the noise levels be when the turbines are in operation? ... not rabble-rousing, just under-informed, and don't know things like ... Are these plants quiet or loud? How quiet or how loud? Will they run 24-7, or at some sort of intervals? Anything else I ought to be wondering about?

Ken Lassman 7 years, 5 months ago

You can't hear much of the current generators on the south side of the Kaw, and while these are probably more current technology, my guess is that they'll be about the same: the water over the dam is the dominant sound, and it's 24-7.

georgeofwesternkansas 7 years, 5 months ago

More power to eastern kansas on this issue. I wish western kansas had the option of hydropower, but we don't and we need the power and colorado is offering to pay for the coal plant.

Clark Coan 7 years, 5 months ago

Notice that Westar failed to buy the power. I recall they didn't think wind power was feasible until just a few years ago.

Lake of the Ozarks generates electric power. Clinton Lake could as well (at least until it silts in).

Clickker 7 years, 5 months ago


Does the emperor have no clothing?

KEITHMILES05 7 years, 5 months ago

I love it when the green people of Lawrence have a difficult time reconciling their integrity.

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