Power Plants Kill Trillion Fish a Year

  • Power plants take in a lot of cooling water. Fish and other aquatic life are sucked into intake pipes and die. (Photo by Lester Graham)

Hundreds of electric power plants might have to find alternate
methods of cooling in the future. As Tracy Samilton reports, a federal
appeals court judge says the plants are killing too many fish:

Transcript

Hundreds of electric power plants might have to find alternate
methods of cooling in the future. As Tracy Samilton reports, a federal
appeals court judge says the plants are killing too many fish:


For electric power plants located near water, it’s cheap and efficient
to run lots of water through the plants for cooling. But untold
numbers of fish and other aquatic life are killed in the process.
Eddie Scher is a spokesman for the environmental group Waterkeeper
Alliance. He says overall, the industry might kill a trillion fish or
more each year.


“It’s funny that we sit around and talk about other
problems with our fisheries – there are other problems with our
fisheries – but – this is big one!”


A federal appeals court recently ordered the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency to change its rules regarding cooling systems, and to
place fish first and costs to the industry second. The electric power
industry says new cooling systems could cost millions per plant, and
instead, they should be allowed to restock fish to replace the ones
they’ve killed.


For the Environment Report, I’m Tracy Samilton.

Related Links

Untapped Power in Offshore Wind Turbines?

  • Developers want to put wind turbines in offshore locations like Lake Ontario and off the coast of Massachusetts. (Photo by David Orsborne)

The U.S. Department of Energy wants 20 percent of the country’s electricity supply to eventually come from wind power. Some of that power could come from wind turbines located on the water. The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports some power companies are hesitating:

Transcript

The U.S. Department of Energy wants 20 percent of the country’s
electricity supply to eventually come from wind power. Some of that
power could come from wind turbines located on the water. The
GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports some power companies are hesitating:


Until recently, the strength of the wind on the water was mainly of
interest to the shipping industry, anglers, and to people who like
to sail.


(Sound of sail ruffling and folding)


Lee Konczak is folding up the sail on a small sailboat that he often
takes out into Lake Michigan. Konczak says he likes the serenity of
riding on the wind and the beautiful view from offshore. Even so, he
says he wouldn’t mind if the view included a few wind turbines:


“With energy certainly being at the top of the news practically on a
daily basis right now, and with limited resources, I think an
experimental kind of thing with wind turbines would be excellent.”


Some wind power companies are planning more than a small
experiment. An effort is underway to put up 140 wind turbines in Lake
Ontario and another developer wants a wind farm off the coast of
Massachusetts. The industry would like to develop more projects. It
says the US is behind some European countries when it comes to
going offshore for wind. Compared to the US, European countries are
short on fossil fuel supplies and they don’t have as much land. So
they began placing turbines offshore a few years ago.


John Dunlop is with the American Wind Energy Association. He says the land-based
wind turbines in the US and Canada are important but often trigger local
disputes over new overhead transmission lines. Dunlop says lake-based
wind turbines would avoid some political squabbles by being close to
many cities:


“We enjoy living next to water, so consequently our population centers
tend to be close to the water which means a lake-based installation
may be no more than 10-20 miles away from that load center. Now, to get
that energy, that electricity from that wind project back to the city
you do need to have underwater cabling, but that’s a fairly common
technology so that’s not a huge impediment or a huge cost.”


Several environmental groups are getting on board with the idea of
putting wind farms in waterways. Charlie Higley is with the Citizens’
Utility Board in Wisconsin. He says there are already many coal and
nuclear plants near the water:


“Both of those have huge environmental and economic costs
associated with them, so we’re supportive of the development of
wind, not only on land but we really think the time is now to
start looking at developing wind resources on Lake Michigan.”


Higley acknowledges some people may not like the look of wind
turbines if they’re installed within view of the shoreline. Other
supporters concede there also needs to be more study of wind speeds
over the water. They also say there needs to be a cheaper way to fix
turbines that break down in waters dozens of feet deep.


Walt Musial helps oversee offshore wind projects at the National Renewable Energy
Lab. He says getting to a turbine in water is no easy task:


“You can’t drive a truck, so you have to drive a boat, or perhaps a helicopter like they do
in Europe. These add costs as well, and so these methods of accessing turbines have to be
developed and minimized.”


Still, Musial says because the Energy Department’s long-term goal is
to promote more wind production, he predicts some of that wind power
will come from offshore. But for now, the uncertainties have many
power companies rooted in inland turbines.


Kim Zuhlke is with Alliant Energy. He says his firm prefers a place
like Iowa, where there are already 800 wind turbines and a
desire from public officials to have more:


“You couple the acceptance, the economic growth, existing
transmission, all of those things together make it a logical place
for us to go.”


Still, Zuhlke says offshore wind turbines in the U.S. may become
a reality. He says engineers have to perfect a turbine that provides a big
enough payback for the additional expense of putting something way out in
the water.


For the GLRC, I’m Chuck Quirmbach

Related Links

Regulating Power Plants

For years, Northeastern states have criticized their Midwestern
neighbors for the high levels of nitrous-oxide and sulfur emissions from
that region’s power plants. The pollution is believed to drift
northward,
causing smog and acid rain. This winter, attorneys for the states and
the
Environmental Protection Agency will meet in Federal court, to decide
whether the EPA has authority to regulate the power plants. As the
Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Brian Mann reports, now that a last-minute
compromise has fallen through, all sides are gearing up for a legal
battle
that could take years: