Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2001

All about electricity and environment

June 13, 2001

To the Editor:

Thanks to Terry McKinney, Ken Hayes and the other members of the Baldwin City Council for their work on the June 6 town meeting regarding the city's future energy situation. Information on possible options was presented clearly and was followed by spirited discussion. The meeting was, to my mind, a great of example of participatory democracy.

Some citizens at the meeting voiced concerns about the environmental impact of operating a large electrical generation plant in the Baldwin City area should we ultimately choose to enter into a partnership with Western Resources. Although McKinney and Hayes suggested that a new generation plant would be "much more efficient and much cleaner" than the current plant, they were not as specific as might have been hoped. Fortunately, more detailed information on these questions is available.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy Web site (www.fe.doe.gov), 90 percent of the next 1,000 power plants built in the United States are likely to use natural gas turbines, the type of plant being proposed by Western Resources. In addition, advanced turbine technologies currently being developed are projected to achieve 60 percent efficiency (cited as a relatively high level by the DOE) and nitrogen oxide emission levels less that 9 parts per million (half the average of turbines currently used). These improvements have the potential to not only reduce energy costs, but also to help reduce green house gases that contribute to global warming. Commercial turbines featuring these new technologies are scheduled to be available in 2002.

Economic considerations related to generating our own electrical power still raise several questions that need to be examined more fully. However, if Western Resources agrees to use an advanced technology turbine in a new Baldwin City plant, this option would appear to be an environmentally responsible one to pursue.

Tony Brown

Baldwin City

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