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January 9, 2010 - Ray Hall (Archive)
Jamestown lost out on tons of publicity and trucks filled with money to build an oxy coal power plant. Our rejection by the federal government hurt inflated egos more than it did Jamestown.

The idea of replacing a worn out boiler in the Jamestown power plant became a politically egocentric plan to attract world attention to Jamestown and for those who spearheaded the effort. That’s okay. Most accomplishments of politicians that have helped this country and this community were ego driven.

The problem was that the BPU Board and the City Administration began with a simple plan, i.e. replace an aged boiler--nothing grand about that. Next came something more alluring; a coal fluidized bed idea, but that would have attracted only local, regional publicity at best. Then came carbon capture and sequestration that held promise for international acclaim, never mind that it was a technology deemed inadequate and undeveloped by local proponents of the fluidized bed idea.

Reminiscent of past movie serials with its hero in an impossible situation every 12 minutes, a technique brilliantly used by Steven Spielberg in his Indiana Jones movies, the carbon capture plan began to fall one plank at time over a burning abyss. Never fear, there just might be a hero looming on the horizon--T. Boone Pickens and he is a man with a plan.

As reported on the Pickens web page there are several pillars to the Pickens Plan: Create millions of new jobs by building out the capacity to generate up to 22 percent of our electricity from wind. And adding to that with additional solar generation capacity; Building a 21st century backbone electrical transmission grid; Providing incentives for homeowners and the owners of commercial buildings to upgrade their insulation and other energy saving options; and Using America's natural gas to replace imported oil as a transportation fuel in addition to its other uses in power generation, chemicals, etc.

The Pickens plan deserves consideration by the City Administration and the BPU Board.

[1] Use natural gas to replace coal as the primary fuel source for generating electricity.

Natural gas was what prompted the $40 million dollar addition of the used jet engine, our gas turbine, to generate that portion of power we can’t buy. Once the turbine was installed and put on line the price of natural gas spiked and made the turbine expensive to operate.

Industry sources claim North America has an abundance of natural gas in the ground, measured in the trillions of cubic feet. The recent emphasis on cleaner power and the shift towards use of natural gas to generate electricity has changed traditional natural gas market behavior. According to the natural gas industry price spikes were not the result of a shortage of the commodity; natural gas price spikes resulted from naturally occurring market forces and an uneven market. Since natural gas is used to heat homes and industry consumption falls off dramatically during the summer months and prices increase during the winter months.

The challenge facing the natural gas industry was to level the market and stabilize the price. Since natural gas is increasingly used to generate electricity and since electricity is the primary source of power for air conditioning and space cooling in the warmer months increased electric demands leads to increased natural gas demand. The results, they claim, is a smaller spike in natural gas demand during the warmer months and a more stable market.

[2] The BPU has initiated conservation measures by encouraging use of more efficient light bulbs for homes and businesses and that could be expanded to improved insulation and other energy saving options.

[3] The BPU could become part of a Twenty-first century power grid by going underground with transmission lines throughout their service area. This would be expensive but would probably receive favorable reviews from the federal government since a surprising amount of power is lost during transmission, not to mention making the city more attractive with fewer utility poles. While the BPU is burying lines to homes they might as well install high speed internet.

[4] The City Administration and the BPU Board should consider installing windmills (along the Bergman park tree line) and drilling our own gas wells.

The Las Vegas Electronics show is coming to a close as I write these words. Besides 3-D TV the biggest attraction was wireless electricity. Although natural gas is not a renewable resource it might become a transition fuel until technology improves for burning coal or until nuclear or newer technologies, such as wireless electricity becomes common place. Smart use of natural gas might serve the residents and customers of the BPU very well. Who knows? An old Texas oilman might be in our future. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Now is the time for Jamestown to go green in a big way.


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