Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Cool Image and Then Some



The Port Dover and Nanticoke wind project began operation in November of 2013.  The image was posted on the Vestas Facebook page, and it is a nifty piece of photography… The wind  farm consists of 58 x 1.8 MW capacity turbines (V90's) located so as to catch the winds flowing (mostly) across Lake Erie. For more information, see http://www.capitalpower.com/community/consultationengagement/Pages/portdovernanticoke.aspx

It is located in the hulking shadows of what was once the single largest coal fired power plant  ever built and operated in North America (Nanticoke) that was owned by the Ontario government. It consisted of 8 x ~ 500 MW boilers and at its peak it consumed over 35,000 tons of coal PER DAY (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanticoke_Generating_Station ). Here is a picture of that plant in its prime:



However, the Nanticoke power plant was shut down at the end of 2013. It once supplied 2.5 million people with electricity in Ontario at a remarkably cheap price, but at a huge long term mostly hidden cost. And it was one of the leading sources of air pollution for Buffalo, which is essentially located 40 miles downwind of this facility. I guess maybe this was a payback for stealing Wayne Gretzky from a Canadian hockey team and sending The Great One off to the uncivilized mess that is Los Angeles….. Heck, they don't even have civilized health care there, even now, though rumor has it that is slightly less uncivilized now that Obamacare is slowly getting implemented...

Anyway, some of the Nanticoke boilers (maybe all) will be converted to burn biomass, in particular, wood pellets (http://www.canadianbiomassmagazine.ca/content/view/1141/59/). In this article, it states that 1.52 MW-hr are made from a ton of biomass, so the estimated 2 million tons/yr of pellets from Ontario would supply around 345 MW average of electricity made as needed (probably mostly in the summer when wind turbine output tends to be lowest). Of course, southern Ontario also grows a lot of corn, and the stover can easily be pelletized and transported/burned in boilers that once upon a time were burning coal. There also are millions of tons of dead trees in the boreal regions of Ontario that are now fire hazards care of invasive species care of Global Warming, Two other former coal burners (Thunder Bay and Atikokan) in Ontario either have or are being converted into biomass burners. 

So NY State, what's your freaking problem in doing that for Huntley and Dunkirk.? Oh that's right, the NRG Corporation probably can't wait to get out of NY State with it's undependable electricity prices. Besides, aren't environmental groups in existence so that they can be blamed for the closure of facilities like NY's old coal burners and the real reasons - of an insane electricity pricing system coupled to insatiable greed at companies like NRG - well, those don't have to be discussed in public at all… The Nanticoke facility is so massive that one of its boilers is bigger than Huntley's two boilers or Dunkirk's 3 boilers. Maybe because it is government owned (Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is similar to NYPA in that they are state/provincial government owned corporate entities) and the unemployment plus the grid instability is just not to be left a gaping void. Besides, maybe they can do greenhouses on a massive scale with the waste heat from the exhaust of the steam turbines. And that could create thousands of jobs, more than ever existed at this massive facility when it converted coal to electricity and waste heat that was wasted and never put to good use.

And in the meantime, on windy days, 104.4 MW of clean renewable electricity made at a contracted price of around 10 c/kw-hr (NO SUBSIDIES!) is being made for at least the next 20 years. It's amazing what can happen if people really bother to put their minds to it. This wind farm was made possible via Ontario's short lived Feed-In Tariff. That FIT system got too successful for its owns good - and it threatened the nuke complex that remains a permanent embarrassment to most of us living near the Great Lakes. And it also meant that a lot of methane extracted in Alberta could not be used to make electricity in Ontario. And since Canada is sliding into what is called "petro-state status"… well that does not portend well for the conservative government that thinks it rules the country, but which is really owned by the oil and gas companies that fund it. But, one wind farm at a time is how you peel back the death grip that pollution sourced electricity and the fuels needed for it and the industries that supply them, even if it trashes the climate control system of our world. Profits rule, and there's no profit in being left behind in the dust. Even if it ruins the world in the process, evidently.

Oh, by the way, those wind turbines are also profitable, and the companies that made the parts (in this case, Vestas at their Colorado complex) also made money, but there are roughly 8000 parts that go into these turbines, so lots of money got spread around, and it percolated throughout both Canada's and the USA's economies via this project. And there certainly has been no shortage of wind of late….. And what is so dangerous about this wind farm and so many like it is that it shows that profits and renewables are quite compatible. You just have to have sane rules for the electricity market, ones that can deal with electricity made without fuel and without waste left behind that remains a threat for way too many and way too long. 

Too bad NY's State government has not yet figured that out. And you can see them flailing about at this website where there are some downloadable "plans" for NY's Energy future in this 2014 version of the NY Energy Plan… http://energyplan.ny.gov/Plans/2014.aspx. And please, by all means, contact these folks and send them hour opinion. Besides, the main document is close to half pictures and giant fonts, anyway, so it is a really easy reader….. and it seems to have way too much in common with the "Easy Reader's" of yesteryears…

1 comment:

BruceMcF said...

Retweeted.

Note that when there is a mention of "biomass", it is quite often not sustainable grown biomass but rather torrified wood from relatively slow growth forests that would be carbon neutral on a 30yr time frame at best. The kind of Biocoal that we need for dispatchable renewable power to complement these kind of wind farms would primarily be made from sustainably grown wood coppice or perennial grasses.

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