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Opinion

Opinion

Old standby

An energy source that drove Lawrence’s early development is getting a new lease on life.

March 25, 2011

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Plans to expand a clean source of energy that has been used in Lawrence for more than a century appear to be back on track.

Having cleared various financial and licensing hurdles, the owners of Bowersock Mills & Power Co. say construction of a new power plant on the north bank of the Kansas River could begin soon. The plant will use the existing dam across the Kansas River near downtown and operate in tandem with the historical Bowersock plant on the south bank of the river.

Selling bonds to finance the project had posed a challenge, but when the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled that those bonds could be sold to qualified individual investors, Bowersock officials were able to market the bonds to regional investors more familiar with the project. The bond deal to finance the $25 million project was closed on schedule earlier this month.

The expansion of hydroelectric power in the city is both practical and symbolic. Concern about the cost and availability of oil has prompted new interest in renewable energy sources. Wind and hydroelectric power were mainstays for early settlers in Kansas, and returning to those sources to supplement power production in the state makes sense.

City leaders also have noted that having a new hydroelectric power plant signals Lawrence’s interest in becoming a player in the green energy market. The plant is projected to produce enough power to serve about 5,400 homes. That isn’t a lot, but, as City Commissioner Aron Cromwell noted, on a per capita basis, it’s more renewable energy than is produced by any community in California. The new plant also demonstrates the possibilities for expanded use of hydroelectric power. It’s clean energy that doesn’t depend on the sun shining or the wind blowing; it’s available whenever the river is flowing.

To solidify their financial plan, Bowersock officials locked in a 25-year deal to sell all of the power generated by both of their plants to the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities, which will distribute it in Wyandotte County. It’s disappointing, in a way, to see this natural resource leaving Lawrence, but from an economic development standpoint, the exported energy will be pumping a lot of new dollars into the Lawrence economy.

Many efforts are focused on new ways to generate the power America needs, but it’s also refreshing to see a company like Bowersock capitalizing on one of the old standbys.

Comments

BigPrune 3 years ago

Does this mean the City won't be spending thousands of our dollars on carbon credits anymore?

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LJ Whirled 3 years ago

Looks like a fish-killer to me. (not to mention the toll on freshwater bivalves)

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Les Blevins 3 years ago

I think we should ask the city to calculate how much money could be saved by not trucking municipal trash to the landfill and instead converting it into biofuels to fuel the city's many cars, busses and trucks,

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Les Blevins 3 years ago

The people of this area should be informed that we have the necessary resources to meet most of our energy needs in the future with renewable energy. Until fairly recently one key strategy has, for the most part, been overlooked in North America. This innovative strategy involves the cooperative and collaborative installation and ownership of advanced renewable energy projects at the local, community level.

When applied to a wide variety of renewable energy technologies, this strategy is sometimes known as Community Supported Energy (CSE). These projects are somewhat similar to Community Supported Agriculture. The main difference, however, is that instead of investing in potatoes, carrots, or cucumbers, with CSE, local residents invest in energy projects that provide greater energy security and a wide variety of other benefits.

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Les Blevins 3 years ago

The people of this area should be advised there is a renewable source of energy that the Lawrence community perpetually pays large sums of money to get rid of, and that source of renewable energy is even more reliable than the flow of Kansas River water past Lawrence. I'm referring to the steady flow of municipal trash that Lawrence residents and businesses create all year round and must pay to get rid of because city leaders want to keep filling the landfill and filling the landfill owner's pockets. Also trash can be converted to transport fuel which is becoming a bigger problem for Lawrence residents than a lack of electric power. And as I understand it the power (if any) is ever generated at the planned new structure it won't flow to the people of this area nor will the money it brings in flow to the people of this area as it would if city busses and other city vehicles were supplied with fuel derived from people's trash. I think the people should ask the Journal World why this information isn't being brought to the attention of the local taxpaying residents. Who is the Journal World serving and protecting?

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