March 27, 2010
Electric Green WasteBy Bruce Thompson
Green initiatives are costing hard-pressed Americans billions of dollars in the form of higher utility bills and squandered investment in inefficient electric power generation.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is about to institute the first of four rate increases for electric power planned to take effect within the next year. The increases are expected to increase power costs for businesses by 21% to 22%. Residential customers will see increases ranging from 8.8% to 28.4%.
The money generated by the increase would enable [Los Angeles Mayor] Villaraigosa to carry out a longtime political promise: securing 20% of the DWP's power from renewable sources, such as solar and wind energy, by Dec. 31.
The political purpose of this is to replace coal fired generation with "green power." The DWP website has a link to a report detailing its existing generation sources. It has a total of 6,991 MW of "net dependable capability," of which 1,515 MW is coal-fired and 285 MW is from renewables and distributed generation. Therefore, "going green" would require decommissioning about 21.6% of the existing dependable capability. The question ratepayers ought to be asking is "why?"
Let us examine the largest coal-fired power plant. It is Intermountain Generating Stationoperating report located near Delta, Utah. LADWP's share of its output is 1,038 MW. The 2009 provides this summary:
Net Generation 13,867 GWH
Net Facility Heat Rate 9,675 B/KWH
Equivalent Availability 92.1%
Forced Outage Rate 2.9%
Net Capacity Factor 87.6%
Net Output Factor 95.2%
The two units were put into commercial operation in June 1986 and May 1987.
The first conclusion we can draw is that the citizens of Los Angeles do not suffer from any pollution from the plant; the citizens of Utah are the ones affected. The purported benefit would be to protect Los Angelinos from "Anthropogenic Global Warming." Spending huge sums on solar and wind power projects could not result in an 87.6% capacity factor (the capacity factor is the percentage of actual power output relative to the theoretical full power operation 24/7/365). For comparison purposes, Spain's wind power has a capacity factor of only 21%. So it would take over four times as large a nameplate capacity to net out an equivalent amount of power. At about $2 million per MW for a wind farm, that works out to be $8 billion for 4,000 MW of nameplate capacity.
Now let us look at the situation from the perspective of the citizens of Delta, Utah. First, they do not want to lose the jobs associated with the plant. However, they would like to see the pollution from the plant decrease. Being from a "Red State," they likely have read Randall Hoven's Graph for The Day of March 18 in American Thinker and have noted that due to the Clean Air Act of 1990 (Bush 41) and the Clean Air Mercury Rule of 2005 (Bush 43), the air pollution from coal-fired power plants has been in a dramatic decline. Today's coal-fired plant would be dramatically cleaner ("Clean Coal") than a plant built in 1987. It would also be much more fuel-efficient. The greater the fuel efficiency, the fewer emissions (including carbon dioxide). So what they might prefer is to have LADWP use its newfound money to build a modern coal-fired plant in Delta. Let's call it Unit 3.
As a notional design for Unit 3, we could copy an existing plant in Yuhuan Province, China. The Chinese have built and put into commercial operation four 1,000 MW ultra-supercritical boilers. According to Power-Technology.com, their estimated investment was 900 million euros. That works out to be about $1.2 billion. The efficiency of the plant is shown to be 45%, which means the heat rate is 7,582 B/KWH. Reducing the heat rate of Unit 3 relative to Units 1 & 2 reduces fuel consumption by 21.6%. That directly reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 21.6%. An added benefit is that it would also reduce the demand for cooling water by 33.4% in the arid climate of Utah. So they would have one of "the world's cleanest, most efficient and most advanced ultra-supercritical units" that would be repaying the capital investment through fuel and cooling water savings while also improving air quality and cutting "greenhouse" emissions.
The principal impediments to this happy result are Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who chair the Energy Committees in the House and Senate. So as the voters of Los Angeles pay those ever increasing electric rates, they know whom to blame. As Pogo so eloquently put it, "We have seen the enemy, and it is us."