Sunday, March 02, 2008

Kansas Clean Energy

There are a few groups currently protesting the introduction of new coal power plants in western Kansas. The Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy (or NAMBLA), even has a video explaining why this is a terrible idea:

These groups are pushing for greater reliance on wind energy. Which is great, because everyone else agrees Kansas wind energy is basically a good idea.

Unfortunately, wind energy has unique problems as a power source. Mostly, this stems from the fact it is intermittent, by hour, by day, and by season. So to manage a grid, which requires predictable output, you need to supplement wind energy with some power source with an output that can be controlled. This could include hydroelectric, but not in Kansas. It could mean nuclear, but nuclear plants are actually most efficient when running at nearly full capacity. It'd be better for this purpose to pick a power source that is efficient even when operating at lower capacities. Oil is a great example of this, but in addition to being as messy or messier than coal, oil dependency isn't really en vogue at the moment.

So that leaves coal. If we go with coal, we have essentially two choices: the existing Kansas coal infrastructure, which was built before anyone cared about pollution, and is generally messy, falling apart, and with constrained capacity. Option two: we could build some new coal fired plants, utilizing the advances we've made in reducing the environmental impact for each ton of coal burned, and giving us a bit of room to grow.

GPACE and KCE are against new coal plants, which basically means they would prefer us to use the existing coal infrastructure. I have deep suspicions it's because they don't have the faintest idea what they are talking about.

Maybe I'm the one missing something, let me know in the comments.