Clean Coal to Use More Water?

Government researchers say more water will be needed for power plants in the future.
Mark Brush reports:


Government researchers say more water will be needed for power plants in the future.
Mark Brush reports:

Power plants use a lot of water – often millions of gallons an hour. A lot of that water is
cycled through the plants and released back into lakes and rivers. But there’s also a lot
that is used up – mostly evaporating into the air.

The Department of Energy predicts that energy needs in the U.S. will increase 22% by
2030. The increase in power generation will drive an increase in water consumption.

And researchers at the National Energy Technology Laboratory say a lot more
water will be needed. That’s because of the pressure to build coal-burning power plants
that strip carbon dioxide from their emissions to slow global warming. The researchers
say the technologies needed to do this will use a lot more water. They predict that
freshwater consumption at power plants will increase as much as 50%.

For the Environment Report, I’m Mark Brush.

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Green Technology Can Defeat Terrorism

Small-scale on-site power generation technologies help protect the environment. Will they also help to protect us against terrorism? Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Byron Kennard argues that they can:


Small-scale on-site power generation technologies help protect the environment. Will they also help to protect us against terrorism? Our commentator Byron Kennard argues that they do.

Like every American, I am mourning the tragic losses that terrorists have inflicted on our nation. But I mourn too because I fear that in the aftermath of these attacks, environmental protection efforts will be sacrificed to the awful necessities of war. I am reminded of a remark Tolstoy once made to a young friend, “You may not be interested in war,” Tolstoy warned,” but war is interested in you.” War’s interest in the young is fully matched by its interest in the environment.

Apart from what the US does to go after bin Laden, we must also pursue peaceful solutions to this challenge. The best of these options is to vastly increase economic opportunity for the world’s poor. After all, it’s their desperation that provides the breeding grounds for fanaticism. As Jessica Stern, author of The Ultimate Terrorists, observes: “Force is not nearly enough. We need to drain the swamps where these young men thrive. We need to devote a much higher priority to health, education, and economic development or new Osamas will continue to arise.”

Economic development will be hard to achieve and will take much time. But in it environmentalists can find some solace. There are environmental ways to develop economies and often these make the most sense for the world’s poor. For example, two billion people in the world have no access to electricity. Providing them electricity for lighting, clean water, refrigeration and health care, and radio and television is perhaps the best single way “to drain the swamps.” The best way to make electricity available to the world’s poor is through on-site generating technologies that are the environment friendly.

These “micro power” devices generate electric power on a small scale close to where it is actually used. They include fuel cells, photovoltaics, micro generators, small wind turbines, and modular biomass systems. For instance, a micro generator the size of a refrigerator can generate 25 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power a village in the developing world.

The environmental approach toward energy sufficiency in developing nations has been to utilize micro credit. That means providing poor people with affordable mini-loans to purchase on-site energy generators, or micro generation. Currently the US leads the world in exporting solar electric, small wind, fuel cells, and modular biomass systems to the developing world. Such exports of energy generation have become a $5 billion per year market, so this environmentally benign strategy is also economically productive. In short, electrifying the poor regions of the world will benefit our people, our planet and the cause of peace.

Utilities Prepare for Summer Demand

As summer approaches power companies will brace for rising demands for
electricity. During peak demand periods in past summers, utilities have
been caught short of power. However, deregulation of the electric power
industry has led to some innovative changes. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Powerline Generates Controversy

No one likes the idea of a major powerline running through their
backyard. But a proposed bulk transmission line in Wisconsin is
generating more than the usual amount of controversy. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:


No one likes the idea of a major power line running through their backyard.
But a proposed bulk transmission line in Wisconsin is generating more than
the usual amount of controversy. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Stephanie Hemphill reports:

Steve Olson will never forget the night of June 25, 1998. He was working
the overnight shift at Minnesota power’s control center when something went
very wrong.

“I really didn’t know exactly what was going on at the time but I knew it was
serious. I knew it was something bigger than Minnesota power. It’s within
a matter of a minute or two we had half a dozen lines opening.”

The open lines meant the electric grid was breaking apart. The grid
connects Minnesota power to eight states and three Canadian provinces.
lightning strikes in Wisconsin – 200 miles away – caused the breakup. Over
40,000 people lost power.

John Heino is a spokesman for Minnesota power. He says that kind of
situation is one step away from a regional blackout.

“Normally this system is designed to work together so neighboring states and
systems can support each other, but in that situation, it just breaks up
into pieces and there’s no guarantee the power plants in that area are
enough to supply the load that’s left.”

The near miss convinced Minnesota power to do something to shore up the weak
link in the regional electric grid.

The Duluth-based company joined with Wisconsin Public Service to propose a
345-kilovolt transmission line from Duluth Minnesota to Wausau Wisconsin.
It would tap into cheap coal and hydro power from western Minnesota and
Manitoba. Heino says the new link would lighten the load on existing lines
and make service more reliable.

“With all these sources to the north and the west, and you have the Twin
Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago, to the south and the east, so there’s this
general day in and day out tendency for the power to flow to the south and
the east.”

The plan has attracted a lot of opposition along the proposed route. Eight
counties and over fifty local governments have gone on record against it.

Opponents worry about property values, loss of farmland, and health issues.

(sound of meeting)

At a recent meeting in superior Wisconsin, nearly 200 angry people showed up
to confront Minnesota power officials.

Person 1: “Both of these proposed routes would go through our property. We sunk our
life savings into it and we thought we could protect it. Lo and behold,
what did we know?”

Person 2: “As far as I’m concerned, this is a dinosaur. We’re looking at smaller
leading edge technologies that are more adapted to local generation.

Person 3: “I have a very nice neighbor and the power line is going across his land

he said to me, if it comes across my land, I’ll shoot’em.

Some Wisconsin farmers oppose the line because of problems they’re having
with other electric lines. Debbie Beyrl says ground currents have made her
cows sick. That’s reduced milk production and made it harder to keep the
business going. She’s also worried about her family’s health.

“I worry about my kids because they’re in the barn helping us. And I think
it’ll put us out of business, not that we’d want to quit but I think it
would finish us off, yeah.”

Power company officials say ground currents are caused by improper wiring or
local distribution lines, not large transmission lines.

But environmentalists question the need for the line. Chris Laforge sells
wind and solar electric generating systems. He says utilities could avoid
building expensive power lines by using alternative systems.

“It’s a perfect match. Distributed photovoltaic generation on rooftops of
large buildings can meet peak air conditioning demand because electricity
gets made right when you need it.”

Power companies say there’s great potential in alternative technologies, but
the current need is acute. Jim Loock is the chief electrical engineer
at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. That agency has the authority
to approve the line.

“Our electrical system is growing at 2-3% a year, so we need 200-300
megawatts of additional supply every year. That’s why we say part of the
equation is energy conservation and demand side management, we feel strongly
that the consumer needs to conserve energy and use it as wisely as possible.”

Hearings are scheduled this month in Minnesota and this summer in Wisconsin.
if approved, construction could start in September 2001.

For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.