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Anyone have experience with "Peaking" NG Power plants in the neighboorhood?

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Gooserider, Jun 25, 2007.

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  1. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    It has recently been proposed to build a "Peaking" power plant in North Billerica, about 4-5 miles from our house, and I'm wondering if anyone has any experience or knowledge of these pro or con.

    This is a "part time" plant that is supposed to be operated no more than 10-25% of the time to help deal with peak power demands that might otherwise overload the grid. I can't find the handout that was being sent by the proponents, but IIRC, its about a 250 Megawatt plant. Fuel is supposed to primarily be Natural Gas, with supplemental use of Low Sulfur Diesel if NG isn't available for some reason. Exhaust is supposed to go out 80' stacks, and be clean, etc. The site is industrial, fairly low desireability land near a rendering plant, an automotive junkyard, and our municipal sewer treatment plant. (One of the advantages the plant is supposed to offer is that it will use the output of the sewer plant for cooling, reducing the amount of effluent we will be discharging back to the Concord River, which should help our permit...) There aren't any real close residential abutters.

    The proponents have made it sound like a reasonably good deal, a plant that will add a big chunk of income to our property tax base, but not demand much in the way of town services, allegedly low pollution, minimal impact on the environment, etc.

    However there seems to be a significant opposition crowd that claims that we are being lied to, and that the plant will be a major polluter, cause serious environment and health consequences, etc.

    Among other claims on a flyer they were passing out at a recent town event -

    Property values being impacted.

    Emissions from 6 80' stacks will permanently change landscape and environment.

    Gas Turbine emissions including Nitrogen Oxides, Sulfur Dioxide, airborne particulates, and C02, w/ the backup diesel fuel being worse.

    Will dump 150,000 tons of CO2 and 68 tons of particulates into the air each year.

    Will evaporate 200,000 gallons of treated wastewater into the air daily (Seems to me like a good thing...)

    Will be storing 500,000 gallons of diesel, and 50,000 gallons of hazardous aqueous amonia in above ground tanks, less than 750 feet from the river.
    ---------------

    Some of these claims are clearly true, and may even have come from the proponents own materials, but most of it doesn't seem to me like a really big issue. However, the stuff about some of the pollution claims is a bit scary, as is the entire design of the flier - what I'm trying to get opinions on is whether this plant really does represent a major hazard or if this is just a case of the "NIMBY crowd" blowing smoke (pun intended)?

    Gooserider

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  2. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    "(One of the advantages the plant is supposed to offer is that it will use the output of the sewer plant for cooling, reducing the amount of effluent we will be discharging back to the Concord River, which should help our permit...)"

    One of these plants tried to set up shop in my city and proposed to use river or city water for cooling. The liquid cooled plants are quiet but they dump the hot water back into the river with strange impacts. Also, the plants install an additive to the water. Waste heat has to go somewhere. The air cooled ones used a bunch of huge radiators and huger fans blowing air over them dumping the heat to the air. Very noisy though and less efficient than the liquid cooled.

    We didn't get the evaporative cooler option, maybe that's for the larger plants. If you evaporate 200,000 gallons of wastewater then you are getting condensed poo soup. You will have hot condensed effluent with all of the bad stuff still there such as heavy metals, pH issues, heat, then what? Dump that to the river? Hazardous waste? Dilution is the solution to the pollution and condensing the waste works the other way.

    So my gripes were the noise pollution, diverting drinking water to the plant, and the effluent stream. We all need electricity is surges so these plants have to go somewhere but if they can stay quiet, be in industrial areas, use air cooling, then they are pretty decent. Having a a fuel tank is not a big deal, nor is efficient burning of the fuel source. Why do they need the ammonia? The crack heads around here would love that.
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Does Peaking NG power plants mean they're made in China?

    - ducking and leaving the room. :lol:
  4. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Must be the one planned for Tewksbury. I thought it was more like 480-megawatt. The ammonia is injected into the emissions control system.

    We have two NG fired peakers here that came on-line in the last five years. They have turned out to be economic disasters because of the price of NG.
  5. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    Jeez, ya gotta love it.

    I would not call Natural Gas the energy of the future, thats for sure. I would call it the near perfect [fossil fuel] energy source. Kinda sad, but mother nature is not making any more right now (in sufficient quantity).

    There is a world-wide scramble for NG right now, and the US has been in decline for some time. Thats why there is such a push for inport terminals!

    I would lobby for solar, wind, tidal or whatever to meet demand. You may even recommend conservation.
  6. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Yeah. Can you believe that Old Dominion built two NG peakers to supplement the North Anna nuke?
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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  8. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    Yea, I can. But the fishing is really good on the lake by the discharge.... A month before anywhere else!

    Its like its own ecosystem. Can you say that about a NG Peaker?

    "Ladies and Gentleman, take a good look down into the Olduvai Cliff"
  9. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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    Seems to me there is a Hydro Plant on the Hudson River, it pumps water into a reservoir during low demand times and opens the gates to the turbines during peak times? This some wife's tale? There have to be better alternatives for high NG cost areas. Basically I think the idea is a good one, but could drive the cost up a lot for basic service. If you have moving water I think it's the best source outside of wind for a quick blast of energy. There's a project going on now in New York to use tidal flow for generating electricity, that's creative.
  10. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    You can't win. There are still environmentalists crapping on the Hoover Dam. The only hydro that I know of that isn't getting beat up is Niagara.
  11. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    My understanding is that the power plant will pull some of the TREATED effluent from the town Sewer Treatment Plant, use it for cooling and evaporate a good bit of it, then return the heated remainder to the STP, which will use it to warm some of their process tanks, increasing efficiency of those tanks, getting rid of the heat, and giving the concentrated effluent a second round of treatment before eventually dumping it into the river. You may be right about "Dilution is the solution to the pollution" but the EPA / MA-DEP don't seem to see it that way! Our town has a permit with a very strict limitation on the gallonage we can put into the river, and we are getting close enough to that limit (in part because of infiltration problems that we are also working on solving) that we are getting concerned about how much more we can expand our municipal sewer system, and / or accomodate additional heavy water users.

    Again depending on who you believe, the plant shouldn't be a noise problem. Between the sound control they are supposedly going to put in, the liquid cooling, and other engineering, they claim that the plant will be on the order of 3-6 Db over ambient at the property line, and at or barely above ambient by the time you reach the nearest residential areas. They won't be using significant amounts of drinking water either.

    The emissions, both air and water are a concern, but I don't think the water sounds like a big deal. At least our DPW guys seem happy with the proposal, especially the part of saving 200K gallons of discharge / day off our permitted amount.

    I agree the tank isn't a big deal, first because we are pretty good on the technology of building reliable storage tanks, second because I'm sure they will be employing all the relevant containment barriers and other such technology needed to get the permits to build such things. Lastly, while they aren't joking matters, neither diesel nor amonia are THAT horrible to deal with even if there is a leak...

    Be careful or I'll sic the moderator on you... %-P (Wait, that might not work for some reason.... :red: )

    AFAIK they aren't planning one for Tewksbury, this one will be in Billerica, though not far from the Tewksbury / Lowell / Billerica line. You may be right on the size, as I mentioned I can't find the mailing with the official description in it.

    From the economic side, while I'd obviously like the plant to be a financial success (I bear no ill will towards the builders) I'm less concerned about what the plant does for it's investors than I am about the fact that it will hopefully be a big contributor to the town's property tax base. Whle I'm no fan of gov't taxation, property taxes are probably somewhat more "legitimate" than other forms of taxation, and the town does provide services that have to be paid for (whether the town should be doing most of those things is a seperate issue, but I won't go there for now...) - as such I look at development in terms of what it does for our tax flow status, and this plant would be paying a large tax bill annually, but demand very little in the way of increased services. (Unlike residential development which is generally bad for your tax structure...)

    Frankly I'd really rather see a Trash to Energy type plant going in. It would do the same sort of good things for our tax base, and lower our trash disposal costs. It presumably wouldn't offer the "Peaking" ability, but we need baseline power production as well, so that would still be useful.

    Given the present plant proposal however, one of the concerns raised by the opponents is that while we are being sold the plant on the basis that it would be primarily burning NG, which is reasonably clean, and only burning Low-Sulfur Diesel as emergency backup, the possibility exists that if the price of NG goes up excessively, or it becomes to hard to obtain, then we will see them burning LSD predominantly which is much worse from a pollution standpoint.

    Gooserider
  12. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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  13. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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    Messed the post, sorry, got the quote wrong, just learning hope you all can figure out my post. Hunting and pecking for twenty minutes and I can't fix it. Sorry BB if you take a hit for what I said.
  14. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    No "hits" on hearth.com. The reason I like this place.
  15. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    The key think to look for is the magic words in square brackets... You need to have them in pairs of the same word, the one at the beginning doesn't have a slash (/) in front of it, the one at the end does... You can nest pairs if you want to do something like quoting someone who is quoting someone else, but try to keep the nesting to a minimum.

    As to "Micro-hydro", yes it is done in many places in New England, but it's a limited resource, you need a fairly big dam with a largish drop in order to generate enough power for it to be worthwhile. The flip side is that they are taking out a great many of the old mill dams because they are becoming dangerous due to lack of maintainance and poor original design.

    In actual practice, the options for hydro aren't that great in the Northeast, we don't have the needed mountains to give the big drops you need for Megawatt size hydro plants.

    Gooserider
  16. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Wow Goose, it sounds like you have really looked into this. The NG peaker couldn't acquire the land on the gas line so they went away from our city. The parcel they wanted was city owned and the city council wasn't impressed that the peaker would be of benefit to the city. Being the owner's of the parcel the city was uniquely able to kill the deal.

    Teaming the peaker with the STP process sounds great. The STP iteslf has various blowers and agitators that likely put out several decibels that fall under the "ambient category" but 3-6 decibels isn't much. Our local proposal gave us a decibel rating at the property line instead of an above ambient rating and I had to explain to the planners what a decibel was. I get sound tested regularly at off-road motorcycle events and score in the high 80s when the allowable sound level is upper 90s.

    No additional waste, very little noise, little drinking water diversion, sounds like a winner. Don't expect it to benefit the city as much as to provide the community with needed electricity. Our local plant was to be built by a private company to competitively provide power to the utility under contract. The plant may shut down or it may run a lot more than expected. You can bet that they won't commit to a maximum days per year of on-time.

    Given the information things sound good.
  17. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    You don't get something for nothing-they're all tradeoffs.
    Conservation seems like a good approach.
    Are the global warming people pro nuke? That'd be something to see.
  18. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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    Highbeam:
    Were you involved in the project, or are you talking about something local? It's a West Coast - East Coast thing???? If you are in the Seattle area, what's happening with the Methane generators at the landfills? I understand DesMoines has no street lights because the landfill keeps things lit :cheese: , right? I really think if you dug a few test wells anywhere along the water front around Seattle/Tacoma the "natural gas" from the fill would power a lot of electrical generators.
  19. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    The land in this case is privately owned, it isn't on a major gas line that I know of, but it is next to a rail line, and a major grid line goes over it. Supposedly they will get their NG and Diesel by rail, and the grid tie point is obvious. I haven't actually looked into it in that much depth, mostly just read what's in the local papers and the stuff I get in the mail (we get a fair bit since I'm a Town Meeting Rep...)

    It seems to me like the noise isn't likely to be a problem. I don't even think the opponents are raising it as an issue, and that's saying something.

    The plant won't give us any direct benefit in terms of electric rates or even power supply - it's output will be going onto the general grid for the New England area, so we benefit by having more power available, but only as a secondary matter. The big help that the town would get is on the tax revenue side, and that should be pretty much independent of how much the plant actually runs...

    I agree that overall it sounds good, but the big issue as far as I'm concerned is the stack emissons... The question is what is the REAL numbers for this thing likely to be - the proponents say it would mostly just be CO2 and water vapor, and in amounts that shouldn't be a particular problem for the environment. OTOH, the oponents are talking particulates and other nasties (but just how nasty in the greater scheme of things...) and I am trying to find out which is closer to the reality.

    Gooserider
  20. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    Lets see. Regarding emissions, burning 1/2 a million gallons of diesel is going to emit way more than CO2 and water vapor. They are basing their emissions on NG.

    And think about this: if they were confident of NG supply, why would they need backup diesel?

    Electric generation is being deregulated all over. Maryland did it last year and saw some huge price increases. Virginia is doing it this year (and the govt is doing everything to try to stop it) and news keep leaking out about price increases.

    The entity that wants to build this peak load facility is obviously looking at capturing the peak market, which is the most profitable. Goose, if the motivation is to capture tax revenue from the facility, then support them. If you think that this country has unlimited access to cheap natural gas and oil, then support them. If you think there is no environmental impact from burning all of this stuff, then support them.

    However, you posted this in the Green Room and there is really nothing Green about this facility. Its using the old paradigm of burning more fossil fuels to keep the A/C going in McMansions. If the country was serious about limiting CO2 emissions, then this project would not be possible.

    But, its all about money. Your local government wants the tax revenue. The plant operator wants the profits. This is how Capitalism has been successful, in the face of cheap and readily available energy. Governments don't make any money handing out tax credits for solar panels and wind turbines.

    IMNSHO, any business that is planning on making it by burning oil or NG will have a tough go of it in the future. Or maybe the people paying a dollar a KWH will have a tough go of it. But hey, if the plant fails they will just stiff the bondholders and walk away and you'll be stuck with a rusty relic close to home, with the potential to have an impact on the environment if its not shut down properly; it won't be.
  21. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    Hey Goose, check this article out. Right up your alley. Your peak power plant is about 180 degrees different than what these people are proposing. Check out the commentary about fuel supplies. (Oil and NG)


    http://environmentmaine.org/envmaine.asp?id2=33603
  22. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Sandor,

    I agree. Historically, NG prices have fallen in the summer because nobody is using it.....not anymore.......with all the eco weenies trying to kill power lants, many new plants have gone the NG route thereby driving up the demand and price for NG even in the summer......
  23. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    Cast, check out heating oil inventory levels!

    Yikes.
  24. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Sandor...do you have a link to them? Are they high, low or what?
  25. littlesmokey

    littlesmokey Minister of Fire

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    Check out this site: http://tinyurl.com/a763x

    This is the energy information center. Some simple and understandable graphs. Pretty cool way to change form one sub topic to another. You can compare stock on hand and prices by passing over the headers and switching back and forth. Much better than trying to load pages and switch back and forth. Good clear data.

    Think I did better in the quote this time, thanks for the help.
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