Ohio Coal-Fired Electric Plants Closed

Americans have a voracious appetite for electricity. In 2012, 37% of it was supplied by coal-fired power plants.

They are a major source of air pollution and atmospheric CO2 buildup that contribute to global warming. They have other nasty emissions to.

How can the U.S. deal with the problem?

In 2012, eighteen coal-fired power plants generating 1.4 megawatts of electricity were retired in northern Ohio. They were 13% of northern Ohio’s total electric generating capacity.

They are not going to be replaced.

The regional power transmission authority, PJM, came up with a novel solution that, unfortunately, puts added burden on an already overstressed national power grid.

The government has a different, even worse plan.

The PJM Plan

According to the EIA, instead of replacing the retired power plants, PJM plans on upgrading their power grid to use backup overcapacity already built into other areas in their vast 180 megawatt grid.

Compared to 180 megawatts, 1.4 megawatts is a pinprick… hardly noticeable.

The problem is that overcapacity is built into every electric power grid for a very important reason… to handle spikes in peak demand. For example, electricity usage spikes during record breaking heat waves and bitter-cold winter blizzards.

If the power grid runs out of capacity then… welll…  think overheated power grid switching; think ‘brownout’; think ‘blackout’!

PJM says they can operate within regulatory safety margins that will prevent all that. Heck, every major brownout and blackout in history came when the power authorities were working within well-defined margins. Whoops!

Perhaps the PJM plan will work. Perhaps not. One certainty is that if PJM runs low on capacity during a blizzard, they won’t find any extra in northern Ohio.

The Government Plan

Innovate our way into a Clean Energy Future
Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future
Obama Administration Energy Plan, 3/30/2011

The President himself said soon-to-be-announced EPA regulations will make the cost of operating all existing coal-fired power plants so prohibitively expensive that energy suppliers, he hopes, will be forced to replace them with windmills and solar cells.

The blueprint plan calls for moving away from all fossil fuels into a green energy utopia.
Read it yourself.

Make no mistake, the government does have good ideas. Among them are energy conservation, efficient appliances, building standards, cafe standards, etc.

The main problem with the Administration’s blueprint is that, on the whole, it is:

  • Functionally impossible
  • Prohibitively costly for American energy consumers
  • Can’t have much impact for about a half century.

The government’s own 2013 Energy Outlook Report for electricity forecasts that by 2040 all renewable energy sources combined will only inch up to 16% of electricity production from 13% in 2011 and 11% way back in 1993.

Most renewable electricity comes from hydroelectric dams.

Wind and solar combined supplied only 3.57% of electricity consumed in the United States in 2012. Coal supplied 37%.

Optimistically, wind and solar will increase to 6.57% by 2040 if all new renewable capacity comes entirely from them. Coal will still supply 35%.

Not only that, but the EIA projects that green energy will raise electric rates significantly, not counting the $20 billion in taxpayer subsidies already poured into them.

Worst of all, wind and solar are non-dispatchable. That means they cannot be turned on and off as necessary to adjust for peak electric energy demand, like during heat waves and blizzards.

Conclusions

The PJM plan, even if it works, is not a permanent solution for retiring coal-fired plants. It depends on using excess capacity already in the existing grid.

The replacement electricity has to come from somewhere. Taking it from overcapacity puts dangerous stress on what is needed to handle emergency electric consumption.

Vermont’s Yankee Nuclear Power Plant is scheduled for decommissioning in 2014. At a whopping 604 megawatts, it supplies upwards of 5% of all New England’s electricity.

That can’t be replaced with a grid upgrade like PJM’s for its puny little 1.4 megawatts.

Together, plant losses in New England and northern Ohio will put stress on the entire eastern seaboard power grid.

The President’s naive plan to replace everything with green energy won’t work either. Yankee alone produces about 25% as much delivered electricity as the combined total of all existing wind and solar.

Just to replace Yankee we’d have to be building 1,200 windmills in New England right now.
We aren’t.

So where does that leave us?

Natural gas is electricity’s white knight. It’s plentiful, produces affordable clean energy right now and with virtually no taxpayer support whatsoever.

The EIA says natural gas will produce electricity for as low as $66/megawatthour in 2018. That, by far, is the least expensive form of electricity there is. Recent discoveries show there is a century’s worth of recoverable natural gas reserves in North America.

Natural gas already supplies 30% of all U.S. electricity.

Converting coal-fired plants to natural gas is an easy solution for reducing CO2 emissions that is happening right now this very second.

So far, natural gas has already reduced U.S. CO2 emissions by 5%. No other major industrial country with all their costly cap-and-trade green energy initiatives have reduced nuthin’.

Go with natural gas! It’s a no-brainer!

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About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Sep 9, 2013, in Business, Climate, economics, Energy, environment, Government, Jobs, news, Politics, science, technology. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. And meanwhile, China, India, and Brazil will continue to pour huge quantities of CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere.

    • Yup… and their coal-fired plants are less efficient than ours. 😦

      That doesn’t mean we should do nothing about our own emissions. We should and we can.

      The United States has been a leader in science and technology for a long time. It is not by chance that the U.S. earns almost as many Nobel prizes as the rest of the world combined.

      Whether we want to be or not, we the leader of the world and, as such, have a responsibility to make life better for everyone on this planet.

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