Letters to the Editor

Energy options

February 14, 2012


To the editor:

Missing thus far from the discussion of Westar’s latest rate increase request is the larger issue of how electricity is produced for Lawrence and Douglas County. In my travels around the United States and abroad I always boast that Lawrence is the finest place to live in Kansas and one of the finest places in our country. I have in mind primarily its outstanding school system, public services, cultural advantages, downtown shopping, Kansas University and Haskell, tolerance for diversity, and even the efficiency and courtesy with which we receive electric power in our homes and workplaces.

Unfortunately, I always have to make an exception and apologies for the fact that our main electricity-producing facility is powered by burning coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels, all of which add relentlessly to the concentration of greenhouse gases that cause global warming and threaten our planet. When will the managers of Westar, representing not only themselves and their stockholders, announce that in the near future they will convert their plant from coal to a less pollutant fuel?

I recommend a combination of solar, with photovoltaic cells for storage, wind and hydroelectric, all of which (sunlight, wind, water) we have, thank God, in abundance. A dab of natural gas could perhaps be added to the mixture. If Westar lacks the will for this far-seeing transformation, perhaps we voters should consider converting the power plant into a municipal facility.


LogicMan 6 years, 2 months ago

"photovoltaic cells for storage"

What? They don't store energy.

"(sunlight, wind, water) we have, thank God, in abundance"

Not at this moment when I need the juice. A tiny amount from that dam, but not enough for more than a handful of people. With the ongoing drought its output is probably well down too.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

"When will the managers of Westar, representing not only themselves and their stockholders, announce that in the near future they will convert their plant from coal to a less pollutant fuel?"

Westar's (NYSE:WR) Energy Generating Center's portfolio:

1) Abilene Energy Center – Abilene, Kansas Central Plains Wind Farm – Leoti, Kansas 2) Emporia Energy Center – Emporia, Kansas Flat Ridge Wind Energy – Nashville, Kansas 3) Gordon Evans Energy Center – Colwich, Kansas 4) Hutchinson Energy Center – Hutchinson, Kansas 5) Jeffrey Energy Center – St. Marys, Kansas 6) La Cygne Energy Center – La Cygne, Kansas 7) Lawrence Energy Center – Lawrence, Kansas Meridian Way Wind Farm – Concordia, Kansas 9)Murray Gill Energy Center – Wichita, Kansas 10) Neosho Energy Center – Parsons, Kansas Rolling Meadows Landfill Gas to Energy Plant – Topeka, Kansas 10 )Spring Creek Energy Center – Logan County, Oklahoma State Line Combined Cycle Plant – Joplin, Missouri 11) Tecumseh Energy Center – Tecumseh, Kansas Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station – Burlington, Kansas **

  • Is a wind farm, and is not polluting, if various factors are not counted in. Already is a combined electrical generating plant. * Already not considered to be terribly polluting, if you don't mind a bit of radiation. But what's a few alpha, beta, and gamma rays between friends and centuries, anyway?

"Kennedy’s proposal ignores the extremely high cost of fuel conversion (upwards of $100 million for a medium-size coal plant) and the added fuel cost to burn gas." Clipped from: http://www.masterresource.org/2009/07/forced-coal-plants-to-natural-gas-just-another-false-hope-for-cheap-action/

You asked: "When will the managers of Westar, representing not only themselves and their stockholders, announce that in the near future they will convert their plant from coal to a less pollutant fuel?"

I believe it will be shortly after you make a very generous offer of $1,000,000,000 towards the cost of converting about ten plants to natural gas. Of course, the consumers of the electricity generated by WR won't mind having higher electric bills due to "the added fuel cost to burn gas."

Do you really have a billion dollars in order to effect that change? It is possible that amount could be off by a few hundred million, but when discussing sums of money such as this, if that's a problem you really don't have the money anyway.

And, don't forget about this, from Harvard:

"Conventional Air Pollution Often, studies of the cost of reducing carbon emissions forget that coal-fired power plants must meet major new emissions reduction targets, and these will significantly increase their cost of operation. In fact, a small percentage of the older coal plants are likely to be closed as companies implement emissions cutbacks to meet the new CAAA requirements." Clipped from: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/2772/coal_or_gas.html

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

"we voters should consider converting the power plant into a municipal facility."

There are about 100,000 citizens of Lawrence, I think, and the conversion to natural gas would cost about $100,000,000. But this is not counting rural voters, and of course the citizens that use the electricity produced at this plant that are outside of Douglas county have no say at all. This is what the citizens of Lawrence want, and so we should be prepared to pay for it.

Plus, the plant will need to be purchased from WR, they're not going to simply give away their tangible assets. The voters could possibly offer them $150,000,000 for it, but I don't know if that would be considered to be a reasonable offer. I haven't been out shopping for power plants lately, because I know I can't afford to buy one.

$250,000,000/1,000,000 = $250,000 per citizen. Sure, no problem at all. Every man, woman, child and infant will be happy to toss in $250,000.

Far too often people toss out suggestions, which is good, but then they don't think about what it would actually cost to implement their suggestions. Many bureaucrats in Washington come to mind.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

Wow did I get that wrong. It should read:

$250,000,000/100,000 = $25,000 per citizen. That's a much more reasonable price, only about $100,000 for a household of four.

Yes, let's do it.

Brian Laird 6 years, 2 months ago

Maybe you should start using a calculator.....

$250,000,000/100,000 = $2,500

Still a lot, but an order of magnitude lower than your second attempt.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

Good point. My calculator is all messed up, the keys stick so I can hardly use it at all. I really should get a new one.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

Hey! Are you related to that guy with the constant?

LogicMan 6 years, 2 months ago


But don't forget to give props to his coworker, Stephan.

Brian Laird 6 years, 2 months ago

Depends upon which constant RH means. Boltzmann has one constant all to himself (Boltzmann's constant), but shares billing with Stefan ("f" not "ph", probably fits better on vanity plates) on the Stefan-Boltzmann constant.

Favorite Boltzmann quote

"My memory for numbers, usually quite good, is always bad at recalling how many beers I drank."

Brian Laird 6 years, 2 months ago

No it's more of an homage. Still trying to figure out how to get S = k ln Ω on my license plate.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

You should have seen me struggling with that crummy calculator for these postings that required a lot of calculations. Somehow, I think I got them all correct:

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

I bought a new calculator! And new pens, too!

But there was a problem right away. I had to read the instructions to find out how to turn it off.

openbook 6 years, 2 months ago

I say lets do it. My reasoning is that the formula needs to be completed. If its an up front cost of $2500.. And it has a effective life span of lets say 50 years. 2500/50 = $50.00

The savings from the cleaner cheaper fuel would have an attractive payback.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

Apparently the fuel is not cheaper, plus you're ignoring the interest that will need to be paid.

"the added fuel cost to burn gas."


Jeanette Kekahbah 6 years, 2 months ago

Wind we have (3rd windiest state in the US). Sun, not so much, our shiniest Kansas days can't touch average UV rays beaming bright upon Florida, SoCal, etc. But there's another resource being blown off and kept from light: HEMP. Let's get current with ancient knowledge of natural sustainability. And I challenge the 1st person to respond with nonsense about pot to explain thc levels of feral hemp, offer the truth of cross-pollination, argue against a self-seeding crop requiring NO fertilization OR herbicides OR pesticides and name the number of gallons of biofuel per acre PLUS all the other attributes it offers. Try to make it a hippie or drug issue, please. Who wants Omega-3 that's far superior to fish oil? Or a plant that removes radiation from soil? Ignore the fact your US Constitution is written on hemp paper and that it was illegal for farmers NOT to grow it before the conveniently controllable limited access to fossil fuels was employed to keep us conveniently controllable cash cows milked by a limited population of petroleum powered psychos pathologically pumping, fracking and poisoning this planet and the pockets of all people upon it. Really, HEMP is a very bad, dangerous weed. Let's just keep the counties on guard to keep trying to kill it alongside our gravel roads. What a backwards Bush-wacked brainwashed bunch we are.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

Is it OK with Big Brother for you to say that?

Get real. Hemp is good enough to produce the plastic that is used to manufacture the dashboards of Chevrolet cars, and that is its only official known use. And even that is only allowed because the plastic dashboards that have hemp as a raw ingredient are imported from Canada.

It is true that hemp oil can be used for fuel in almost any vehicle that has a diesel engine. But the only people that would ever do that are hippies driving their Love Bugs.

LogicMan 6 years, 2 months ago

"It is true that hemp oil can be used for fuel in almost any vehicle"

And all the drivers behind them have the munchies, and think they are driving bumpercars?

Jimo 6 years, 2 months ago

We seem to have here a leftist viewpoint so eerily similar to the rightist ones we see displayed so prominently on these pages ---

Someone who obviously doesn't begin to grasp the first elements of how the world works and wishes to decree that everything align to their preferred dream-fantasy of how they would remake things if they could substitute their judgment on the law's of nature for God's.

Other fuels for energy are not adopted due to "lack of will" but rather because they fail to be adequate substitutes for reasons that could fill a book (and have).

The phrase "photovoltaic cells for storage" alone reveals chasms of ignorance.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

Either propane directly, or with a small amount of petroleum distillate added and then referred to as C.N.G., vehicles are already on the road. At the moment, there is a terrific tax advantage of driving a propane powered vehicle, and that is that you don't have to pay any road taxes at all, because the nearest propane tank is your fuel supply, and there is no one there to collect a road tax.

It is true that propane and C.N.G. have limitations when used for vehicle use, but they are rather minor. The limitations are that for a given displacement size, the power the engine produces is slightly less, on the order of 25% to 30%. Therefore, the fuel mileage is slightly lower, which results in lower fuel mileage. So the range, but not the cost of driving per mile, is slightly less.

They have a fantastic advantage in that the pollutants they emit is much lower than gasoline or diesel powered fuels.

The only real reason that Honda Motors sells the C.N.G. powered model of the Civic in only a few states is that the fuel stations are not available everywhere.

Gasoline has a terrific disadvantage in that it is distilled from crude oil, and a large part of our supply of crude oil comes from countries that do not have stable political systems, and adds an unacceptable amount to our trade deficit.

One of the big advantages of propane or C.N.G. powered vehicles is that the U.S.A. has one of the largest reserves of natural gas on the planet.

If propane or C.N.G. powered vehicles were the norm, Saudi Arabia would be purchasing fuel from the U.S.A.

Here, have a look at the Natural Gas powered Honda Civic. It's a very nice looking car: http://automobiles.honda.com/civic-natural-gas/

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

Fact: C.N.G. is the fuel of the future in the U.S.A., whether you like it or not.

But, it might take a few decades.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

"The natural gas powered Civic GX is available to retail customers in California, New York, Utah and Oklahoma."

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

"Therefore, the fuel mileage is slightly lower, which results in lower fuel mileage." Strike second "fuel mileage", insert "range".

George Lippencott 6 years, 2 months ago

It sounds as if you want this done right now. Where does the money come from? This will not be cheap.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

President Obama will make a phone call, and then the treasury will print some. What a silly question.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

I grew up in a small town, St. Francis, Kansas, and I spent some time there as an adult.

St. Francis, Kansas has a municipal electrical generating plant that is always maintained and always ready for operation on rather short notice.

But, it is only fired up and used when electricity cannot be brought in and purchased from far away, because it is very expensive to operate the municipal plant when it is needed, which is almost never.

There is a problem in that if it were to be in constant use, the gasoline (or maybe diesel) engine would wear out rather quickly.

It is an extremely large V-12 or V-16 engine, I don't remember for sure. I do remember reading about it once, and I was amazed at its displacement. I had absolutely no idea that internal combustion engines that large were even available. Maybe they aren't anymore, I do know that engine is very old. But, since it's constantly maintained and hardly ever used, it will last a very long time.

I believe I remember hearing it in operation when I was young. It made a huge throbbing sound.

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