Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Commissioner Long Replies

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- In reply to St. Lucie Commissioner Grande's letter to her, Glades Commissioner Donna Storter Long replied today:

Dear Commissioner Grande,

Thank you for the information.

When the power park proposal was publicly made, my first reaction was ambivalent-financial aspect of course the heavy positive, but COAL? My prior knowledge of this fossil fuel resource was limited, and other than its plentiful availability, my perception was completely negative. I am trying to keep an open mind and learn as much as I can.

I have seen the FP&L presentation multiple times and their "show" IS quite convincing, especially in light of the proposed economic advantage to Glades County. However, the initial approach and negotiations were privately held for months before the Glades County Commission resolved to support the power park, and prior to my election to the Board in November. Therefore, I do NOT have all nor the same the information that persuaded my esteemed colleagues to vow their support. None (of our Board members) has experience or education in the power-producing field, but I do believe that all sincerely care about all aspects of Glades County's future, especially economically and environmentally.

And too, the property owner of the proposed site, Lykes Bros., with extensive land holdings in Glades and Highlands counties with plans for development, seems to me to be in the most vulnerable position to suffer any detriment from coal powered industry, yet are willing to sell property for this venture.

As part of the permitting process, our Deputy County Manager Larry Hilton has a meeting of experts scheduled for February 20, 6-9 pm at Doyle Conner Building in Moore Haven, with opportunity for the public to submit questions in writing for the panel's discussion. I expect this forum to provide an opportunity to address all issues, and allay concerns of those who felt excluded from the process when the initial proposal was not publicized before the Commission's announcement of support.

Thank you again. In addition, I apologize that Glades County Commission chose by 4-1 vote (my dissention) to ignore St. Lucie County Commissioner Craft's letter of appeal concerning the FPL Plant, especially in light of the regional, even global, impact a coal-powered industry will have.


  1. Bob Bisette5:12 PM

    It's refreshing to see that the commissioner has an open mind.

    As president of the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners (CIBO), I have some concerns about the information recently posted on this blog regarding gasification technologies. I recently submitted a letter to the editor of the Fort Myers New Press on this same topic. I hope you find it helpful:

    Dear Editor,

    The January 7, 2007 op-ed, "Fight for carbon-capture coal plants" is overly optimistic in suggesting that new coal gasification technology is the best way to meet the expected growth of Florida's power needs in the coming years.

    Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) is an evolving technology with a great deal of potential. However, as promising as it seems, it is unrealistic to think it is the silver bullet for our energy needs.

    Only two coal-fired IGCC plants exist in the United States. Both are small and received substantial funding from the government. While their cost remains high, their efficiency, reliability and environmental performance have suffered. With power needs in Florida growing rapidly, it would be unreasonable to use such unproven, costly technologies. There are proven technologies -- such as the JEA's new fluidized bed boiler facility in Jacksonville -- that can provide reliable, cost-competitive electricity today.

    While industry experts will continue to pursue IGCC technologies as the “next generation” of coal plants, right now, utilities' and boiler operators' first priority must be meeting consumers' needs for reliable, low-cost power.

    As with all new technologies, there are a great many wrinkles to iron out before IGCC can become a dependable source of electricity. Until then, utilities cannot experiment with consumers and the region's reliability.


    Robert C. Bessette
    Council of Industrial Boiler Owners

    CIBO is a broad-based trade association of industrial boiler owners, architect-engineers, related equipment manufacturers, and universities representing 20 major industrial sectors that actively promotes energy & environmental equipment, technology, operations & policies and laws and regulations affecting industrial energy facilities.

  2. Anonymous10:31 AM

    I'm familiar with this IGCC technology, but it seems too new to be ready to put all of our faith in.

  3. Aaron F.11:15 AM

    A recent article from the a respected trade publication called Energy Daily highlighted an MIT study that may cast some doubt on whether gasification technology and carbon storage are viable.

    The Energy Daily

    Huge Questions, Little Research On Carbon Capture—MIT Study

    October 13, 2006

    Large-scale deployment of technologies for capturing and safely storing carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, seen as crucial for the continued use of coal in a carbon-constrained world, faces enormous technical, regulatory and policy questions that current federal research efforts cannot answer, senior Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers said Thursday.

    In a sobering preview of a report of their research team’s findings-- due to be released in December--Ernest Moniz, co-director of MIT’s Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, and Howard Herzog, a principal research engineer in the MIT lab, said that current demonstration projects on carbon capture and storage (CCS) cannot answer key questions about the feasibility of deploying CCS technologies on the scale they said will be necessary to meet the challenge of global warming.

    “The bottom line is really pitiful,” said Moniz, who served as under secretary of the Energy Department during the Clinton administration. “Key issues that need to be addressed aren’t being addressed.”

    Current federal programs “are really sub-critical and answer more the need to talk about the problem,” Moniz told a group of energy industry officials at a roundtable discussion sponsored by The Aspen Institute.

    The MIT analysis assumes that current nuclear generation capacity remains flat, that current growth rates for solar and wind generation continue and energy efficiency programs reduce
    demand for power by 30 percent.

    “We’re talking about a very significant research program, starting yesterday, if you want a carbon capture and storage program of this scale,” Moniz said. “There is an integrated set of technical and policy issues that need to be addressed. Smallscale experiments cannot answer the questions that need to be answered.”

    Herzog said the MIT study concludes there are two challenges facing industry and policymakers as they contemplate broad deployment of CSS technologies.

    “We need to reduce costs, which are primarily associated with [carbon] capture,” Herzog said. “The second key challenge is reducing uncertainty associated with geologic storage at scale, both in terms of scientific uncertainty and regulatory uncertainty.”
    To better understand the technologies needed to store massive amounts of CO below ground, scientists need data in the form of a “pressure signal” that comes as the gas begins to fill the selected storage area, Herzog said.

    The Energy Department, working with regional partners at sites across the country, has been conducting small-scale injections of up to ,000 tons of CO to test the suitability of various geologic formations for storing the heat-trapping gas.

    “You’re not going to see a pressure feedback from the reservoirs at those levels,” said Herzog, adding that the MIT team thinks the correct scale is in the range of 1 million tons of CO in a year. “Unless you get up to the area where you’re going to be operating commercially and see the physics of the system respond to you, you can’t really answer some of the questions that we want answered.”

    Scientists also need to ensure that certain chemical and geologic mechanisms that occur in porous rock best suited for CO storage won’t reduce the amount of usable storage space,
    Herzog said.

    Herzog said that scientists also must confirm that once a storage site is filled, the CO will remain in place for thousands of years—a crucial research question. “If we don’t understand what happens to that CO , if we can’t predict that, we’re going to have a hard time getting permitted,” he said. “We want to make sure the CO stays there, because the whole point of putting it in the ground is to ensure it doesn’t go into the atmosphere.”

    Additional research is needed on how to integrate technologies for coal generation, carbon capture and CO transport and storage, the report will conclude.

    Moniz suggested that the current enthusiasm voiced by some utility executives for integrated gasification combined cycle technology (IGCC) may be misplaced. IGCC technology converts coal to gaseous form, allowing the removal of key pollutants prior to combustion. Compared to pulverized coal combustion, IGCC technology allows more cost-effective CO removal, and the requisite equipment is cheaper to install than on conventional plants.

    “Clearly in a lot of the discussions, IGCC has been anointed as the solution in a carbon controlled world, and we certainly do not agree with that,” he said, noting that a host of variables—including new technology developments—will bear on a utility’s decision on what combustion type is best suited to its needs.

    “Right now we would say it’s the best candidate for the lowest cost of carbon captured, but…there is lots of technology development that we could see that could change that,” he said.

  4. Alan Walker11:20 AM

    Many proposed IGCC power plants are facing cancellation, cost recovery opposition and delays. Here are a few examples that have been in the media:

    · AEP: Billion-Dollar Plant's Costs Are Escalating

    “The company said earlier this year the plant would probably cost about $1 billion. It promised to provide a more detailed cost estimate by the end of this year. But in a letter hand- delivered on the day after Christmas to its regulator, the state Public Service Commission, the company's lawyers said it wouldn't be able to provide the estimate at this time.

    …"What we've found out is, part of the higher cost is from the construction market -- concrete, steel, labor -- the regular things you have in construction," Matheney said. "It's also the first time a plant of this type has been built to commercial scale."

    …The company has repeatedly said it will only build such plants in states where regulators allow it to recover its costs. That means ratepayers would have to pay increased rates.”

    …Morris [AEP Chairman and CEO Mike Morris] said the process of getting the regulatory and legal authority to build the integrated gasification plants "is taking longer than we'd like -- at least longer than I'd like. And arguably longer than our customers can really afford and longer than the instate regulators can afford."

    - Charleston Daily Mail, 12/27/06 (emphasis added)

    · NRG: Company Shelves Plan For “Clean Coal” Power Plant

    “…NRG officials said they decided to drop the coal technology (IGCC) because the company couldn't build the planned 630-megawatt plant in time to receive state incentives….Environmental groups were already fighting the plant, saying the new coal technology still produces carbon dioxide, which, unless captured, contributes to global warming. The technology to capture the gas is still being developed.”

    - Associated Press, 11/28/06 (emphasis added)

    · AEP: CEO Says Issues Could Delay Clean Coal Build

    “…The company had been hoping to build an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant in Ohio by 2010, "but it's probably more like 2011 or 2012," AEP CEO Michael Morris said….The process in Ohio has been slowed because of a lawsuit that alleges that the state public utility commission would overstep its authority by approving cost recovery for the coal plant. Morris said he expects a decision from the state's Supreme Court early in 2007. …”

    - Reuters, 11/06/06 (emphasis added)