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Examiner
  • Old IPL power plant could have 'green' future

  • Faced with impending federal environmental regulations, Independence Power and Light could make significant changes to the Missouri City Power Plant in a few years.



    During Monday’s study session, Power and Light Director Leon Daggett presented Independence City Council with three chief options for post-January 2016.

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  • Faced with impending federal environmental regulations, Independence Power and Light could make significant changes to the Missouri City Power Plant in a few years.
    During Monday’s study session, Power and Light Director Leon Daggett presented Independence City Council with three chief options for post-January 2016.
    The coal-fired plant, located off Missouri 210 on the north side of the Missouri River, features two 19-megawatt units. Power and Light could stick with coal but with a costly price tag for environmental compliance, convert the plant partially or fully to biomass fuel, or retire the plant, which has been in summer operation since 1998 after being in standby mode 1987 to 1997 and in year-round operation from 1982 to 1986.
    Jan. 31, 2016, is the benchmark because it’s the compliance date of the Industrial Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (IB-MACT) Rule, a set of guidelines finalized three months ago by the Environmental Protection Agency to control air pollutant emissions.
    Daggett said while coal is the cheapest fuel for producing power, he estimates a $5.9 million cost for the Missouri City Power Plant to reach IB-MACT compliance, plus another $42.1 million for compliance of proposed future regulations.
    “The industry’s referring to it as the ‘trainwreck,’” Daggett said. “Lisa Jackson (former head of the EPA) wanted to get rid of old coal and not allow new coal. There comes a time where you can’t spend the dollars and fight it.”
    The biomass fuel option is intriguing as a renewable energy source and because of what Daggett calls a “unique classification” under the IB-MACT Rule, basically that the rules are less stringent than with coal.
    “The biomass is green, and that would work if we could make it work,” Daggett said.
    The big question is finding a type of biomass that can be effective with the plant’s pulverized coal boilers. A test burn could happen this autumn.
    “We have to have the right type of fuel,” Daggett said. “lt looks like this corn stover (the parts of corn plants that remain after harvest) could work. We really won’t know a lot until we test burn it, and we need to see how much a test would cost.
    “I started looking at it when I came to the city seven years ago. I saw the small units would work well for biomass. We have a tremendous amount of tree trimmings in the Kansas City area, and that started me down the road at looking at biomass.”
    Council Member Chris Whiting said the biomass fuel possibility could be another feather in the city’s cap.
    “Independence is the first city in the area going to LED streetlights, and we’re going to save a lot of money by doing that,” he said. “If we’re able to use the Missouri City Power Plant for biofuel, we’re just further establishing ourselves as a leader in green energy.”
    Page 2 of 2 - If the city retires the plant, it would do so after 2015, just before it would be subject to new regulations. Daggett said last year’s purchase into the natural gas-fired Dogwood Energy Facility in Pleasant Hill would allow the city to absorb any power loss due to retirement. Converting Missouri City to gas is not on the table because of large conversion costs, not to mention the steep price of tapping into the nearest source eight miles away.
    The Missouri City Power Plant was built in the 1950s by Northwest Electric Cooperative. After a fire damaged the plant in the late ’70s, the city purchased it in 1979 for $4.2 million and spent another $10 million to refurbish before it went back into operation three years later.
    Ultimately, the plant’s fate will be in City Council’s hands.
    “We’ve got some options,” Whiting said. “It’s old and it’s either going to have to be decommissioned or we’ll make some major investments.
    “I think it’s an important enough issue that we all need to be up to speed on this with what’s going on. I’m glad Leon and the city are doing due diligence on this.”
     
     

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