Archive for Friday, May 10, 2013

Bowersock officially opens $25 million power plant on the Kaw

May 10, 2013


There was much talk of rain dances Friday afternoon at the grand opening celebration for Lawrence-based Bowersock Mills and Power Co.'s $25 million hydroelectric power plant on the north bank of the Kansas River.

“When we began construction on this project, the Bowersock team systematically began sun dances,” Stephen Hill, an owner of the power company said, referring to the need for a dry period to build the plant on the Kaw. “Now that we’re done, we’ve shifted to rain dances. It hasn’t worked.”

Construction crews lost only 1 1/2 days of work because of weather during the nearly two-year construction period of the plant, Hill said. But when the plant was ready to begin producing electricity in late November, there wasn’t enough water in the Kansas River to spin the turbines.

On Friday afternoon, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by more than 100 people, two of the plant’s four turbines were spinning, thanks to recent spring rains. In fact, electricity production began on April 10, the birthday of Bowersock co-owner and president Sarah Hill-Nelson.

“Rain was the best birthday present I could have hoped for,” Hill-Nelson said.

The project, which is located at the north end of the Kansas River bridges in downtown, was lauded Friday by state and local officials as an example of how Kansas can further expand its renewable energy reputation.

“I think we now have a landmark in North Lawrence that will stand as a beacon of light for renewable energy in Kansas,” Mayor Mike Dever said.

The plant — along with Bowersock’s turn-of-the century hydroelectric plant on the south bank of the Kaw — sells all its electricity to the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities. Don Gray, general manager for BPU, said the 25-year contract with Bowersock is an important part of the utility’s plan to increase its portfolio of renewable energy.

With the plant, the utility now gets 16 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. The Lawrence plant provides enough electricity to power about 5,000 homes in the Kansas City area, he said.

Friday’s grand opening marks the end of a long process for Bowersock and the Hill family. The plant has been under active design for the past five years, but its idea goes back much further.

The Bowersock company and its southern plant date back to Stephen Hill’s great-grandfather, J.D. Bowersock, one of the city’s first great industrialists, who used the cheap electricity to create a manufacturing empire along the Kaw.

As Hill and his team were designing the current plant, they came across a reminder of how long the idea of a plant on the north side of the river had been percolating: a set of plans for the project dating back to 1924.

“I know this was a dream of his,” Hill said. “To be able to complete this for him, it means a lot to the family, and I think it will mean a lot to the city in the years to come.”


JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 1 month ago

Why does KCK buy this electricity instead of lawrence? Couldn't lawrence use it to power all the street lights in town...not to mention city hall? Maybe the school district and county should step up too...I thought tis was the only city in Kansas that WASN'T Brownbackward...I guess I was wrong...

John Kyle 5 years, 1 month ago

You think Lawrence is a utility company? How do you propose that the school district buy their electricity? long extension cords?

JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 1 month ago

I believe the school district is closer than KCK. I suspect even you could check that on googlemaps...

John Kyle 5 years, 1 month ago

Dude, it has to do with buying and selling electricity. There are utility companies which do this. The city of Lawrence and the Lawrence school district are not utility companies and have NO WAY to choose who they buy their electricity from. So how can they "step up" and buy electricity from Bowersock? Google maps won't answer this question for you.

formerksteacher 5 years, 1 month ago

Because the power generated is sold to a grid - not directly to users. That's the way the system is set up.

Eugehne Normandin 5 years, 1 month ago

Where is the fishing pier etc. Why can't Lawrence benefit more from this plant?

Clark Coan 5 years, 1 month ago

KU or Westar could have bought the power but didn't? Why? Didn't they want to pay the fair market price for the power?

Lawrence Morgan 5 years, 1 month ago

The above questions are important and need to be answered.

And: Is the public allowed to sell electricity, from solar or wind, to Westar, like it is in many states.

Or is the Lawrence public completely left out of this picture?

How about Baldwin City, which has its own electric plant?

LogicMan 5 years, 1 month ago

"Is the public allowed to sell electricity, from solar or wind, to Westar,"

Yes, in the form of credits to the amount equal to your annual electricity purchases. Any more and you don't anything.

riverdrifter 5 years, 1 month ago

Most of the time Baldwin City gets elec from the grid. Occasionally, when weather dictates or they get a cheap buy window of LNG, they go off grid and generate -in fact yesterday they did for 12 hours or so. I don't think BC ever sells on the grid. BTW, our monthly energy bill makes people groan but most think the independence is worth it.

riverdrifter 5 years, 1 month ago

Whatever. Most of the time BC's motors are cold.

Lawrence Morgan 5 years, 1 month ago

And - how about some pictures of the Bowersock power plant and the opening activities?

ThePilgrim 5 years, 1 month ago

And to run two of those four turbines they have to raise the dam level and back water up the Kansas River. And it still ain't enough. Not to mention the boondoggle - so we have a hydro plant. Doesn't make a dent in the spewing coal plant that is Lawrence's memorable landmark on the turnpike.

windjammer 5 years, 1 month ago

Raise the dam level and back water up the Kansas River. Yes they do thus causing erosion up stream of the dam like never before. Stand on the west bridge and look at the south bank of the river it is eroding the bank by the hundreds of tons. On futher upstream you will see the same thing happening and trees falling into the water from erosion. This has all started since they started to control the water flow over the damn last fall. Oh we are so lucky to have this plant so folks like Bowersock can use the cheap electricity to creat a manufacturing empire with no regard to the Kaw River.

Bill Griffith 5 years, 1 month ago

TP I feel your frustration about the Lawrence Energy Center emissions. The local hydro power will never make a dent in those emissions or any of Westar's unless Westar chooses to buy the power Bowersock is producing-and they have not done that nor will they in the foreseeable future as their demand is projected to stay weak and they still have some requirements for renewable that they will have to get from wind farms since BPU has locked up the hydro for a decent amount of time. Also, in 2-3 years it is projected that home photovoltaics will be as cheap as what Westar offers us-that will initiate some legislative battles as Westar and KCPL attempt to protect their monopolies.

50YearResident 5 years, 1 month ago

Everybody is worrying about where the electricity is going to be used. The real worry should be if there is ever going to be enough electricity generated to sell anywhere. Twenty five million dollar interest payments add up very fast. Water flow on the Kaw is decreasing. Can production of electricity keep up with the interest payments? That is yet to be seen.

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