Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sierra Club leads clean air awareness battle in Bayou State: is there an alternative to coal?

Leslie March, Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, and John Atkeison of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, met with a small group in Shreveport last week to evaluate Entergy's plan to convert its Little Gypsy power plant from gas to coal and petroleum coke, writes Janet Creech.

The Public Service Commission will decide in May if Entergy can charge consumers in advance for the future work by raising consumer rates, said the lecturers. Many banks won't even consider financing a coal-fired plant, so Entergy wants the ratepayers to pay up front. Rates could go up 30% in some of Louisiana's poorest parishes, said Atkeison. Rates for natural gas have gone up, but recent events show coal doing the same thing, as overseas needs are increasing. The adverse affects on climate and health make coal a bad choice for Louisiana's future, says the Sierra Club.

One way to help is to write a letter to Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell to remind him that Entergy's plan is short sighted and that Louisiana should be focusing on a future of clean, renewable energy.


MS said...

Nuclear is a viable alternative to coal. It's cleaner and it works.

The problem with wind and solar power is it relies completely on the weather. If the wind stops blowing, the production of electricity is cut. It's dark for 8-16 hours per day, and that doesn't include the rainy days which block the sun. (Texas already had a problem with the wind power, thus cutting service to major clients.)

We need a reliable alternative to coal, and so far nuclear is the only viable alternative.

Tony Reans said...

Seriously? Nuclear?

50 years of electricity + 10,000 years of radioactive nuclear waste to deal with = bad idea.

Put it this way: would you want a train carrying nuclear waste to roll past your neighborhood? Would you want nuclear waste stored near your town? Maybe you would. But I wouldn't.

Coal is dirtier than nuclear power, in regards to the pollution it creates right now. Nuclear waste stays around practically forever, and could cause catastrophic unforeseen damage in the future if it leaks (not to mention reactor meltdowns and explosions, etc).

Sunlight, wind and ocean currents are clean.

It's always sunny and/or windy somewhere on planet Earth, and the oceans are always moving.

Sustainable energy is an emerging industry, so for now it's imperfect and incomplete.

Here's an article on the February event where some Texas businesses went without power for about 90 minutes.

Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency
Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:11pm EST

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A drop in wind generation late on Tuesday, coupled with colder weather, triggered an electric emergency that caused the Texas grid operator to cut service to some large customers, the grid agency said on Wednesday.

Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said a decline in wind energy production in west Texas occurred at the same time evening electric demand was building as colder temperatures moved into the state.

The grid operator went directly to the second stage of an emergency plan at 6:41 PM CST (0041 GMT), ERCOT said in a statement.

System operators curtailed power to interruptible customers to shave 1,100 megawatts of demand within 10 minutes, ERCOT said. Interruptible customers are generally large industrial customers who are paid to reduce power use when emergencies occur.

No other customers lost power during the emergency, ERCOT said. Interruptible customers were restored in about 90 minutes and the emergency was over in three hours.

ERCOT said the grid's frequency dropped suddenly when wind production fell from more than 1,700 megawatts, before the event, to 300 MW when the emergency was declared.

In addition, ERCOT said multiple power suppliers fell below the amount of power they were scheduled to produce on Tuesday. That, coupled with the loss of wind generated in West Texas, created problems moving power to the west from North Texas.

ERCOT declares a stage 1 emergency when power reserves fall below 2,300 MW. A stage 2 emergency is called when reserves fall below 1,750 MW.

At the time of the emergency, ERCOT demand increased from 31,200 MW to a peak of 35,612 MW, about half the total generating capacity in the region, according to the agency's Web site.

Texas produces the most wind power of any state and the number of wind farms is expected to increase dramatically as new transmission lines are built to transfer power from the western half of the state to more populated areas in the north.

Earlier on Tuesday, grid problems led to a blackout in Florida that cut power to about 1 million electric customers across that state for as much as four hours.

(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady; editing by Carol Bishopric)

So as this article states, "multiple power suppliers fell below the amount of power they were scheduled to produce," so it was a systemic problem.

One of the beauties of electricity is that it can be transmitted over a distance. When there are solar and wind farms all over, along with offshore facilities like tidal/wave power generation farms, there won't be a lack of sunlight or wind problem, because we have this "electrical grid," or electrical distribution system, connecting cities all over the country together for energy-sharing purposes.

If there's no wind in North East Texas, and the wind farms there aren't generating their share of energy, it may be windy off the coast of the Gulf (offshore wind farms) and the power-plant down there can carry the load. If Oklahoma has rain, and the solar panels up there aren't generating power, maybe Texas has sun. It will take an industry; it will take an infrastructure and a system.

This electrical sharing system is how traditional power-plants operate now. Nothing has to change, except instead of plugging something into the grid that creates waste and pollution, you can choose to plug something into it that's clean.

Another point is that these new technologies don't cost more to build than nuclear power-plants. They don't cost any more to operate.

I personally like the idea of tidal power generators or wave power generators. Tidal mills have been used for a thousand years. Go to and look them up. They're much more predictable than wind and solar.

One last thing: none of us were there during the Industrial Revolution, so we don't know first-hand, but I'll bet people had very similar discussions to this when lightbulbs were a newfangled item, and people started getting rid of their horses to buy cars. Emerging technologies generally bring about these discussions, and that's a good thing.