Pretty Gutsy

A new coal-fired power plant is planned for Georgia.

To be built near Sandersville, GA. 850 megawatts, supercritical boiler, extensive equipment for reduction of SO2 , NOx, particulates. mercury and sulfuric emissions.

It takes a certain amount of courage to embark a project such as this one, given that we have a president who has declared war on coal:

“If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can, it’s just that it will bankrupt them.”

–Barack Obama, January 2008

21 thoughts on “Pretty Gutsy”

  1. Through the grapevine I’ve heard the utilities are really pushing back hard with the backing of the mostly republican state’s Attorney Generals, and I think I remember Georgia’s being one of the dozen or so more aggressive ones.

    We have to have the power and there is a somewhat underutilized coal transportation infrastructure already in place. Natural gas is cheap, but there are not enough pipelines to get the as from Texas and Pennsylvania to places like Georgia. It will take several years to get these lines in place even if you assume the envirowhackos will not oppose them with every power they can get their rabid hands on. Southern Nuclear is also building a new twin unit nuclear plant at the Vogtle site, but it will not be enough to cover both the load growth and the retirement of the old coal fired plants built in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Heck even some of the 1970’s vintage coal plants are approaching their design lifetime limit.

    They made the hard-headed decision and with the backing of the Georgia state government (mostly) are going ahead with the project.

    Good for them.

  2. California is encouraging the closure of San Onofre nuclear plant near where I live. As a result electricity prices have spiked 59%.

    Who cares ? It’s only money. The state has also mandated that 33% of electricity must come from wind and solar by 2020 in spite of existing shortfalls.

    The Democrat dominated legislature is in the position of King Canute forbidding the tide to rise. The cost, even if the electricity is generated will spike again.

    There is growing evidence that the costs may be too high—that the price tag for purchasing renewable energy, and for building new transmission lines to deliver it, may not only outweigh any environmental benefits but may also be detrimental to the economy, costing jobs rather than adding them.

    The mandates amount to a “back-end way to put a price on carbon,” says one former federal regulator. Put another way, the higher cost of electricity is essentially a de facto carbon-reduction tax, one that is putting a strain on a struggling economy and is falling most heavily, in the way that regressive taxes do, on the least well-off among residential users.

    At least Kevin Rudd, after he became Australian PM the first time, listened to energy experts and trashed his “green agenda” from the campaign. It’s not clear that the lesson stayed learned, however.

  3. Coal can be a useful fallback for new nuclear. Gas transmission to the Southeast and Florida is a bit constrained, in fact, always seemed to be behind the demand.

    The new Vogtle nukes are STILL awaiting the loan guarantees from the Obama Administration. That’s another of their delaying techniques, along with ridiculous “risk premiums.”

    Here’s the CEO of one applicant for a proposed plant in Maryland:

    “During the course of our discussions, Constellation Energy and our partners identified a significant problem in the methodology that the OMB requires for the credit cost calculation, a problem that is applicable beyond just our project, and therefore of significant program and policy consequence. Yet in seeking to explore this further, we encountered significant delay and resistance in being able to even engage on the issue[.]”

    BTW, I’m really impressed with supercritical steam units – steam that is more dense than water! Better efficiency but high maintenance.

  4. On the subject of nuclear vs. coal:

    I find it fascinating how many people will jump at any opportunity to insist that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is supported by unambiguous, unassailable, iron-clad scientific evidence which we ignore at our mortal peril, but will maintain an awkward silence, or worse, on the subject of nuclear power.

    Whatever risks and costs nuclear power may have, they are certainly nothing compared with the inundation of the world’s coastlines and other low-lying areas that would result from rising sea levels. And it is a technological and economic certainty that the only way to massively reduce CO2 emissions in a short period of time is to embark on a massive nuclear build-out combined with decommissioning first coal, then natural gas plants.

    For anyone claiming scientific rationality, it’s not enough to be anti-coal, you have to be pro-something-else. And it’s not enough to be pro-solar and pro-wind; those numbers just don’t add up in the short term.

    That’s one thing that the environmental misanthropists have going for them. At least their position is internally logically consistent: “We should let the problem run its course because the majority of the human race needs to die.”

    For myself, I expect that climate change will turn out to be in the same category as overpopulation, pollution, pesticides, and the “energy crisis”: not entirely imaginary, but well short of the “sky is falling” event it’s been hyped as.

    I also expect that the various representatives of Minitrue will follow pretty much the same script in the aftermath, conveniently ignoring or distorting their own frantic claims, after events prove them wildly erroneous.

  5. I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that the world, or at least the elite segment of the population, has lost its mind. I know that sounds a bit extreme but what other conclusion can I draw ? Nuclear power, which does not produce CO2, is not to be allowed. Coal power plants, which do produce CO2, are not to be allowed. Fossil fuels, which produce CO2, are not to be allowed. Wind and Solar sources, which do not work when the wind is still and the sun is set, are to be our only source of electricity permitted.

    In ancient times, before civilization when electricity was non-existent, people put themselves to bed at sundown or used candles or whale oil (which produces CO2) for light. The world was poor and life was “nasty, brutish and short.” The Babbage difference engine was designed but did not work because there was no electricity to run it.

    The Muslim world is pretty close to the world of the 18th century with no electricity. Perhaps that is the intention.

  6. Writing in 1824, the great French scientist Sadi Carnot said this:

    To take away England’s steam engines to-day would amount to robbing her of her iron and coal, to drying up her sources of wealth, to ruining her means of prosperity and destroying her great power. The destruction of her shipping, commonly regarded as her source of strength, would perhaps be less disastrous for her.

    Barack Obama is attempting to quite literally take away America’s steam engines…the highly-developed steam turbines that generate such a high proportion of our electricity and thus power much of our industry.

    On an even greater level of economic devastation: broaden Carnot’s comment from “steam engines,” which were in his time the only source of mechanical energy other than animal power and waterpower, to include all those power sources which use carbon-based fuels: whether generating stations burning natural gas, blast furnaces burning coke, or trucks/trains/planes/automobiles using oil derivatives. With these substitutions, Carnot’s paragraph describes the prospective impact of this administration’s energy policies: conducting a war on fossil fuels, without leveling with people about the true limitations of “alternative” energy technologies and without seriously pursuing civilian nuclear power.

    “Drying up her sources of wealth, ruining her means of prosperity and destroying her great power”…Sadi Carnot’s 1824 words vividly express what Obama’s energy policies would do to the United States.

  7. Here are those Fabian socialists Beatrice and Sidney Webb, reflecting circa 1928 on history and on the contributions of what they call the Machine Age:

    The manual-working population of the cities was, in fact, mainly composed of laborers who were lifelong hewers of wood and drawers of water whilst that of the vast stretches of farmland and forest outside the cities was as devoid of art as of letters. And the proportion of merely mechanical work in the world s production has, taken as a whole, lessened, not increased. What a multitude of laborers quarried the stones, dragged and carried the stones and lifted the stones of the cathedral walls on which half a dozen skilled and artistic masons carved gargoyles? From the building of the Pyramids down to the present day, the proportion of the world’s work of the nature of mere physical digging, pushing, carrying, lifting* and hammering, by the exertion of muscular force, has almost continuously diminished…. And it must not be forgotten that, in “Western civilization to-day, the actual numbers of men and women engaged in daily work of distinctly intellectual character, which is thus not necessarily devoid of art, are positively greater than at any previous time. There are, of course, many more such workers of superior education, artistic capacity, and interesting daily tasks in Henry Ford’s factories at Detroit than there were in the whole city of Detroit fifty years ago! Along side of these successors of the equally exceptional skilled handicraftsmen of the Middle Ages there has come to be a vast multitude of other workers with less interesting tasks, who could not other wise have come into existence, and who represent the laborers of the cities and the semi-servile rural population of past times, and who certainly would not themselves dream of wishing to revert to the conditions of those times. It may be granted, that, in much of their daily tasks (as has always been the case) the workers of to-day can find no joy, and take the very minimum of interest. But there is one all important difference in their lot. Unlike their predecessors, these men spend only half their waking hours at the task by which they gain their bread. In the other half of their day they are, for the first time in history, free (and, in great measure, able) to give themselves to other interests, which in an ever- increasing proportion of cases lead to an intellectual development heretofore unknown among the typical manual workers. It is, in fact, arguable that it is among the lower half of the manual workers of Western civilization rather than among the upper half, that there has been the greatest relative advance during the past couple of centuries. It is, indeed, to the so-called unskilled workers of London and Berlin and Paris, badly off in many respects as they still are and notably to their wives and children that the Machine Age has incidentally brought the greatest advance in freedom and in civilization.

    The Webbs may not have understood the nature and importance of capitalism. But, like many leftists of their era, they did understand the importance of power technologies in improving human life. This is something that has been completely lost among their “progressive” successors.

    (The entire Webb essay from which the above is taken is very interesting and is available here)

  8. The new Vogtle nukes are STILL awaiting the loan guarantees from the Obama Administration. That’s another of their delaying techniques, along with ridiculous “risk premiums.”

    Whitehall, Vogtle 3 and 4 and VC Summer 2 and 3 are under construction as we speak. The containment structure is rising at Vogtle 3 and Summer 2, the reactor vessels have been delivered along with other major equipment, the turbine building basements are being finished. These plants already have the loan guarantees too.

  9. Guys,

    If you want to understand the philosophical underpinnings of the energy proposals of the current prog movement, read up on Amory Lovins. I first heard him in college at UT Austin back in the late 1970’s and he HAS NOT changed a bit since then, except he was a lot more honest back then.

    He advocated taking society back to a feudal society with limited energy resources for the few peasants allowed to live (note a modern lifestyle for the lords who ruled them). They would ahve just enough technology to be able to produce enough agricultural surpluses to feed themselves and their lords. He is contemptous of libertarians and despises engineers. Education would be strictly controlled with onerous political and police controls on the few engineers allowed to exist.

  10. I’m reading Liddell Hart’s history of World War I right now. He writes about the difference between England and the US in 1940. The modernization of factories involved converting the steam powered systems of the 19th century to electric motors. Both England and the US did this in the 1920s but the US built many more factories that were designed for the use of electric motors. That is what made the difference in production during and after the war. We quickly recovered but England, even though it had not been invaded, did not. Germany, by building new factories like the US did in the 1920s, recovered faster than England.

    The Progressives talk about infrastructure but do nothing about it. Instead, they waste billions on green projects that are 50 years from practicality, if then.

  11. In fact I was recently discussing a position at Southern Company supporting Vogtle 3 and 4.

    One interesting fact I picked up from “Trains” magazine is that the US is exporting a lot more coal to Germany since the Germans decided to shutdown their nukes. There are projects underway to increase our ports’ coal handling facilities.

    BTW, the ideal electric system uses nuclear for 20 to 30% of peak system load, coal for 20 to 50% and natural gas as intermediate and peakers for the balance. Use hydro if you got it (only 10% of national output) where it is best used as peaking power.

    Regional fuel pricing and transport infrastructure, of course, makes a huge difference. Power for North Dakota can be all coal from Powder River Basin and fracked natural gas – power for New England should be heavily nuclear.

  12. A co-worker of mine who is from Germany told us that the utilities there were refurbishing and re-starting a bunch of old coal and lignite (old East Germany) power plants that were mothballed as long as 20 years ago in preparation for shutting down the nukes.

    So much for the reduced carbon footprint of wind/solar……..

  13. David, I saw that a month or two ago. Sheer lunacy from the Euros, especially the Germans, who really ought to know better.

  14. Thanks for putting this post up. I worked as a consultant in Georgia for a while so I am somewhat familiar with their odd regulatory structure.

    I figured that the local energy companies (publicly owned, non profits) were backing this. They backed a lot of the Southern Company development in past years.

    Per this article below it looks like they all backed out. This means that the “Taylor Energy Fund”, which appears to be a private fund backed by a former CEO of Colorado Public Service Company, is attempting to finance it themselves. If they can get it financed then the EMC’s would engage in long term agreements to purchase power from the plant, but they wouldn’t have an ownership stake, and wouldn’t be subject to cost overruns and other negative issues likely to dog the plant as the greens fight it tooth and nail in the courts and everywhere else.

    Good luck with this Taylor Energy Fund they must be big risk takers. Likely they will just finance it all with debt from some banks or other individuals somewhere. It will be interesting to see if they can raise the money, and how they will pay for the inevitable overruns caused by lengthly legal proceedings.

    This is also bonkers because the EMC’s can do tax exempt financing which likely is cheaper than private financing. In the end if this does get built it will end up costing more than it would otherwise as a result.

    Per their site:

    Also in April 2013, with the permitting and development phases successful completed, P4G announced a planned corporate restructuring to facilitate the ongoing construction and financing of Plant Washington. As part of the restructuring, the four EMC members (Central Georgia EMC, Snapping Shoals EMC, Upson EMC and Washington EMC) will no longer be members of P4G, which relieves them of all future obligations and management responsibilities. The EMCs remain very supportive of the project and their future involvement will be limited to purchasing power from Plant Washington through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).

Comments are closed.