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• See Jim Hightower
• Danish Plan
(Re: “Re-powering Valmont: The environmental impacts,” Danish Plan, July 16.) The prescription Paul Danish offers for quick shut-down of the Valmont coal facility is spot on: That boiler should be converted to natural gas and ASAP.
Other than that, his column is full of misinformation about renewable energy. Solar thermal power in the U.S. is not based on power-tower technology, but on parabolic troughs. The parabolic troughs at SEGS in the Mojave have operated reliably, cheaply and profitably for more than 20 years. The technology is so successful that several new trough facilities have been ordered over the past couple of years (see for instance the 64-megawatt Nevada Solar One plant, opened two years ago and expandable to 75 MW). Florida Power and Light is now building a 75 MW unit at its Martin plant north of Miami. An attractive feature of solar thermal in Boulder’s environment is that it produces maximum power just when the air conditioning load is highest. A “hybrid” plant could be built adjacent to the Valmont plant, using existing Valmont steam turbines to displace a significant fraction of the gas burned there. With modern thermal storage techniques, the trough field could provide power late into the evening in summer weather.
In Boulder, wind is most reliable at night, when we can depend on either the katabatic flow (cool air descending from the mountains) or the low-level jet stream (warmer air flowing north from the Gulf of Mexico) to drive wind turbines when the sun is not shining. Together, wind and sun can provide baseload here most of the time, with natural gas coming in to handle peaks and to help out on rare calm nights.
Another thing to consider: if one third of the rooftops in Boulder County were equipped with 2kw photovoltaic arrays, it would replace the coal-fired capacity entirely.
Danish outlined three alternatives that Boulder County could use to replace coal burning as the main source of fuel for the Valmont plant (installing 300 wind turbines, a 2,700-acre solar thermal plant or sacrificing 27,000 acres of forest per year). He then asks, “Are the people of Boulder County willing to accept those impacts in order to get rid of the coal?”
My answer is “yes.” While I do not support the wood alternative which Danish used as an extreme example, I do think a combination of wind, solar and “cleaner” fossil fuels, such as natural gas, could get Boulder on the road to fulfilling its goals to be innovative and cleaner in the coming decades. I do think Boulder citizens will have to give up some of our city and county land to provide space for the alternative solutions. More importantly, in the process we will be giving up CO2, NO2 and SO2 emissions and the production of other toxic side effects from burning dirty fossil fuels in our valley. I think Boulder is willing to “give up” more than what the officials know. We just need great ideas and great leadership.
Heather Sickels/via Internet
I agree with the thrust of Paul Danish’s observations regarding the consequences of replacing the generation capacity of the Valmont Power Plant with wind generation, but some of his math is faulty. During the course of a year, wind farms spend some of the hours of the year running at full capacity and some of the hours of the year running at zero output during periods of calm and with all the other possibilities between these ranges mixed in. The average of these different rates over the course of the year yields the roughly 35 percent of the maximum capacity of the units referred to by Mr. Danish.
Unfortunately, Mr. Danish concluded that using three times as many wind turbines as you think you need would offset this 35 percent annual average and give you dependable power. It won’t. During those hours, when the air is calm, even thousands of turbines standing idle still sum to zero output. A reliable source of power that can be summoned on demand is always required to fill the gaps in output from intermitant renewable sources. That reliable source of power generation is fueled by natural gas.
Voice of reason
(Re: “Court costs,” News, June 25.) Congratulations on a fine job of reporting and writing in your Garnett piece. Your story anticipated the questions that had been lurking in my mind after I’d first read about the new D.A., and offered a nice balance on a contentious and controversial issue. I have no complaints whatsoever. Hooray for the voice of reason (yours, in this case).
Linda Moore/via Internet
Hurting small business
Congress is trying to rush through a poorly conceived climate change plan that would hurt small businesses, destroy job creation and raise prices for consumers. Additionally, it would achieve all this with little real hope of improving our environment. The National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) which has 95,000 black-owned business members, recently commissioned a study that spells out in detail just how devastating this new plan would be. The results are disturbing.
The study predicts that cap and trade, by the year 2030, would reduce our national GDP by $350 billion. It would lower the average U.S. worker’s annual wages by almost $400 and eliminate 2.5 million American jobs.
As NBCC President Harry Alford notes about this study, “These findings add to a growing body of evidence that demonstrates cap-and-trade would make American consumers poorer and the products they buy more expensive.”
With the U.S. economy just now starting to show signs of recovery, we are giving small business owners hope for the future. If cap and trade becomes our climate change strategy, those hopes would be dashed.
Patrick L. Demmer/via Internet
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