BG takes criticism for coal connection
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 11:43
A group of Bowling Green residents continued to raise questions Monday about the 2008 decision of the Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities decision to be a part of the Prairie States coaled-fired power plant in southwest Illinois.
Individuals expressed concerns about the cost of the project, how it could affect the city and its power customers, suggested the city had been misled by Peabody Energy and American Municipal Power and promoted more use of wind and solar power, which city officials pointed out is more expensive than the Prairie States power.
More than 200 communities in the Midwest and 68 in Ohio are involved in the Prairie States project.
"We are not trying to disparage anybody's integrity. We are here to help and ask questions. There are things that we are not understanding," Summit Street resident Neocles Leontis said. Leontis cited city-furnished data to indicate that the Prairie States power is roughly twice the $48 per megawatt hour promised in 2008.
Director of Utilities Brian O'Connell said the price the city expects to pay for the Prairie States power this year is $73.66 per megawatt hour. That charge includes about $750,000 in debt service, which O'Connell said is also part of the megawatt per hour charge on power the city buys from the wind turbines and hydro plants. O'Connell admitted there have been startup issues with the Prairie States plant and said that is not unusual for a new facility.
Clough Street resident Karen Wood said the city needed to get out of the project. "It is scary," she said, and wondered who got the city involved.
South Main resident Joe DeMare noted that the cost of power from the wind turbines at the landfill will drop to $20 a megawatt when the debt is paid off in 2015. He wondered why the city has not done more wind projects and pursued solar projects.
"The whole board is in favor of renewable energy," BPU Chair Bill Culbertson said. "The city will soon get nearly 40 percent of its energy from renewable projects. As far as I know there is only one other Ohio city getting more renewable power."
O'Connell said the power from the turbines costs approximately $90 per megawatt until the debt is paid and that the turbines supply one percent of the city's power needs. He said power from two of the turbines is dedicated to BG, while the power from the other two is spread among several other AMP members who bought into the project.
Board Member John Mekus, said the city looked at installing more turbines west of the city but met with resistance. "Now it's an economy of scale, it is cheaper to buy the wind power rather than to put up our own turbines."
"The residents out there told us they did not want wind farms in their backyard," said Board Member Joyce Kepke. "It was very disappointing."
DeMare said he knows that acceptance varies a lot in communities but suggested people could be persuaded of the benefit.
Other concerns were raised about the length of debt service, the quality of the coal from the mine at Prairie States and whether natural gas might be a better fuel source.
Mekus said during the years leading up to the Prairie States decision power supplies were tight and the cost of buying power on the open market was often unpredictable. "The (power) market since the recession has been lower. Five years or 10 years from now who knows what it will be."
Culbertson recalled that in 2007 "there wasn't a supply of natural gas. It was not available. It never got into the conversation."
O'Connell told the residents he would be forwarding additional information that they requested.
The board also:
• Approved rehabilitation of the 2000 CCTV inspection vehicle and equipment the city uses to examine sewers with video equipment. The rehab cost is $238,000, compared to $320,000 for a new vehicle.
• Approved rehabilitation of a 2007 of a bucket truck used for electrical work at a cost of $165,000, compared to $225,000 all new equipment.
• Approved spending $17,000 for equipment at the wastewater treatment plant that will help lower the phosphorus level in discharged water to half the level of expected in upcoming EPA requirements.
• Added a new option for septage hauling charges at the wastewater plant that allows firms to provide a weight slip to determine the charge.