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Power United States The Almighty Buck Technology

Utilities Vote To Close Largest Coal Plant In Western US (arstechnica.com) 201

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: At 2.25 gigawatts, Arizona's Navajo Generating Station is the biggest coal-burning power plant in the Western U.S. The plant, and the nearby Kayenta coal mine that feeds it, are located on the Navajo Indian Reservation, and the Navajo and Hopi peoples have had a conflicted relationship with coal since the plant opened in the 1970s. Almost all the 900-plus jobs at the mine and plant are held by Native Americans, and the tribes receive royalties to account for large portions of their budget. Negotiations were underway to improve the tribes' lease terms, which expire in 2019. But on Monday, the four utilities that own most of the plant voted to close it at the end of 2019. They decided that the plant's coal-powered electricity just can't compete with plants burning natural gas. A press release from Salt River Projects, which runs the plant, explained, "The decision by the utility owners of [Navajo Generating Station] is based on the rapidly changing economics of the energy industry, which has seen natural gas prices sink to record lows and become a viable long-term and economical alternative to coal power."
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Utilities Vote To Close Largest Coal Plant In Western US

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  • by wardk ( 3037 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @06:03PM (#53876337) Journal

    massive Solar plant?

    • by Two99Point80 ( 542678 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @06:12PM (#53876367) Homepage
      Hope so - that'd provide a bunch of jobs quickly, and the transmission infrastructure is already there...
    • Except you can't scale solar production up or down to handle fluctuations in demand. Or produce solar at night. Or control the weather.

      But aside from that, sure.

      Solar will always be a second-rate option for utilities until storage becomes cheap and plentiful.

      • by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @06:46PM (#53876577) Journal

        Except you can't scale solar production up or down to handle fluctuations in demand.

        You can scale it down, absolutely.

        Or produce solar at night.

        You don't need nearly as much power at night, and if they go with solar thermal you get quite a bit of storage "for free."

        Or control the weather.

        It's Arizona. They basically have two types of weather; Sunny and Night.
        =Smidge=

        • Or produce solar at night.

          You don't need nearly as much power at night, and if they go with solar thermal you get quite a bit of storage "for free."

          True, Power companies typically have trouble selling excess energy produced during the night.

          Or control the weather.

          It's Arizona. They basically have two types of weather; Sunny and Night. =Smidge=

          Where I come from we have two types of weather, rain and night ... we all hate you.

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            All renewables will struggle with high energy power requirements, industry, commercial and high density residential. Suburban power in suitable climes will not be a problem but beyond that simply can not achieve the required energy out comes.

            That does not even touch the concept of substantially increasing recycling of all material via high energy industrial processes. So using energy to eliminate waste and minimise resource use, a double plus but it will take a lot of cheap energy to achieve it. We should

            • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

              All renewables will struggle with high energy power requirements, industry, commercial and high density residential.

              Err, not so much. You simply build your generating capacity to meet expected demands - no different than you would for coal or nuclear power, only in less time for less money. Most of the overwrought concerns over wind and solar power may be answered by simple technology from the '70s. The 1870's.

              There are water towers and hydroelectric dams functioning today that were constructed more than

          • Or produce solar at night.

            You don't need nearly as much power at night, and if they go with solar thermal you get quite a bit of storage "for free."

            True, Power companies typically have trouble selling excess energy produced during the night.

            Or control the weather.

            It's Arizona. They basically have two types of weather; Sunny and Night. =Smidge=

            Where I come from we have two types of weather, rain and night ... we all hate you.

            Sigh, where I come from we have two types of weather, rain and rain at night, you lucky dogs

        • You can scale it down, absolutely.

          You don't want to scale it down. Solar's costs are almost entirely up-front. There are no recurring fuel costs. So after you've built the panels, you want them running at full capacity whenever possible. If power generation needs to be scaled down, you want to scale something else down (preferably something using fuel).

          The flip side of this is that solar can't provide base load nor peaking load. You need other power sources to provide those. Something renewables a

        • Average peak demand occurs AFTER sunset. Solar Thermal with and without storage has a very different cost. You don't get anything "for free". Those which do have storage require some form of backup power anyway as the process of losing energy in the system can cause a several month outage for a plant (solidified thermal carrier material in your pipework is a disaster)

          I'm not saying solar is a bad idea, but one has to be realistic on the applications of it.

      • That's why no one is manufacturing solar cells.

      • Except that, for this generator, demand can easily be modified.

        This facility provides power to pump water as part of the Central Arizona Project. The pumps don't have to operate 24/7.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        You can't scale a coal power plant up or down to follow demand, either. It takes days.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Solar PV is trivial to scale down, just rotate or shade the panels. In practice you would probably use the excess to charge batteries or pump water or use for some kind of non-time-critical process like desalination or refrigeration.

  • by ClayDowling ( 629804 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @06:16PM (#53876395) Homepage

    This demonstrates exactly how empty the campaign promises to bring back coal were. Nobody wants to burn coal when it's so much more expensive than everything else.

    • It should be noted that the whole reason coal is more expensive is because we have so much more natural gas from fracking. You can thank Fracking for yet another environmental victory.

      how empty the campaign promises to bring back coal were.

      No-one said they would be coal jobs... plus maybe those jobs are not going away, from article:

      it's at least possible that the tribes could work out a deal to keep the plant running under a different ownership arrangement.

      Never underestimate the power of an aggrieved mino

      • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @07:59PM (#53876945)

        No-one said they would be coal jobs

        The only argument you could possibly have for that statement to be true is to argue that Trump's speaking style is so vague as to be meaningless. He did say this:

        "We're gonna open the mines"

        And this:

        "Let me tell you: the miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which was so great to me last week and Ohio and all over, they’re going to start to work again, believe me. You’re going to be proud again to be miners."

        He told the miners to get ready to "work their ass off". He made several statements like those after Clinton said that, if she were elected, a lot of coal miners would be out of jobs. Naturally, Trump sensed a weakness and attacked. And people responded to him with statements like this:

        One of [West Virginia's] delegates, donning a coal miner's hat, used the state's time to complain about how President Obama has wrecked the state's economy: "It has been devastating what has happened all across Appalachia and this country," the delegate said. "Tens of thousands of coal miners have lost their jobs over the last seven-and-a-half years under this administration - it's time we change course with a man named Donald J. Trump."

        And this:

        "I did vote for Donald Trump," Moeller says. "It's really hard to even say that because I so dislike his rhetoric. But I voted for him on one singular issue, and that was coal."

        And this:

        "I voted for Trump - I mean, a coal miner would be stupid not to," Hathaway says.

        And this:

        "He is a whacko; he's never going to stop being a whacko," Hathaway says. "But I mean, the things he did say - the good stuff - was good for the coal mining community. But we'll see what happens."

        And this:

        “I have said to Mr. Trump on a couple of occasions, 'Please temper your commitment to my coal miners and your expectations of bringing the coal industry back.' It cannot be brought back to what it was,” said Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., the nation's largest coal producer. “The destruction is permanent,” said Mr. Murray, a Trump supporter.

        So, SuperKendall, why do you think all of those people would say things like that if Trump never promised to bring back the coal industry? Do a search for "Donald Trump coal jobs" and go and look at all of the articles going back to last May. Notice him standing on stage with a sign saying "Trump Digs Coal". He's got the CEO of the largest coal producer telling him to temper his promises to bring the coal industry back.

        • You didn't read what I wrote at all, did you? And to boot, you seem to have an absolutely terrible grasp of geography....

          Sigh. So it goes these days, impossible to have rational debate when the left area only about talking points regardless of facts.

          • Yeah, I did read what you wrote, you wrote this:

            No-one said they would be coal jobs

            That's an alt-fact, SuperKendall, Trump did promise to bring back coal jobs. But, just like Trump himself, if the facts on the ground start to look different the easiest way out is to just claim that you never said that, right?

            And to boot, you seem to have an absolutely terrible grasp of geography....

            I would question how that statement has anything at all to do with whether or not Trump promised to bring back coal jobs, but I'm sure you'd like to move the goal posts and distract from the fact that your statement is factually incorre

        • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

          >> It cannot be brought back to what it was,

          If Trump gives it enough subsidies anything could happen.

        • To be fair, burning coal for electrical power production is only a part of the coal indursty. The other part is steel production from iron ore.

        • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

          So, SuperKendall, why do you think all of those people would say things like that if Trump never promised to bring back the coal industry?

          What I've noticed with Trump is that people hear what they want to hear, and they react appropriately.

          But the other thing I've noticed is that Trump very often lies about a problem and/or its severity, but he can be surprisingly truthful about what he plans to do to solve that problem based on a lie.

          So coal jobs declined most due to the glut of natural gas, so it doesn't make any financial sense to have coal miners work their asses off. But who knows, he might do what he says and try to push it through anyw

          • What I've noticed with Trump is that people hear what they want to hear, and they react appropriately.

            I think he makes that pretty easy. Take a few examples from his latest press conference:

            We've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It's a disaster. I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people that our representatives are representing.

            or...

            It's all fake news. It's all fake news. The nice thing is, I see it starting to turn, where people are now looking at the illegal -- I think it's very important -- the illegal, giving out classified information. It was -- and let me just tell you, it was given out like so much.

            I bet 5 different people could read those and come up with 5 different things that he means.

      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        >> it's at least possible that the tribes could work out a deal to keep the plant running

        God I hope not. The air quality is a major problem in Phoenix. They could just open yet another Casino on their land so they can avoid paying taxes, and probably employ just as many people and make just as much money.

        >> do you think Democrats will vote for anything that keeps this plant running?

        Of course. Especially if it means another donation to the Clinton Foundation.

    • People hear different things. The coal miners (and others) heard that Trump was going to try to bring back middle-class blue collar jobs. They don't care if it's a coal mine, installing solar panels, an oil pipeline, building refineries - what counts are blue collar jobs.

      And not the BS trope but forth by the high-almighty that we're going to train you to become code monkeys (and then triple the approved H1-B visas) .

      The Dems used to be the party of labor. Not anymore. The Dems abandoned labor in favor
    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      This demonstrates exactly how empty the campaign promises to bring back coal were. Nobody wants to burn coal when it's so much more expensive than everything else.

      Campaign promises couldn't bring back the ice or seamstress industry either. It's called Creative Destruction [wikipedia.org] a term coined by John Schumpeter. You can't make promises on something beyond your control no matter who you are.

  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @06:16PM (#53876399) Journal
    We have lots of both...

    http://www.wvcoal.com/research... [wvcoal.com]
  • by del_diablo ( 1747634 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @06:19PM (#53876403)

    So based on this article:
    1. Price on gas lowers
    2. Gas plants gets built
    3. It turned out once built en mass, that gas plants was cheaper than coal before price collapse, but nobody knew until economy of scale kicked in
    ====
    That said, the statement in the article do not have to ring true at all.

    Then again, per Wikipedia, Owners:
    -U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (24.3%)
    -Salt River Project (21.7%)
    -LADWP (former) (21.2%)
    -Arizona Public Service (14.0%)
    -NV Energy (11.3%)
    -Tucson Electric Power (7.5%)
    So 4 out of 6 want it shut down, in the mid term future. Which one? And why?

  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @06:22PM (#53876421) Homepage Journal

    About 60 miles west of Phoenix. The Tonopah plant.

    • Palo Verde is the largest power plant in the country, and the only large nuke plant in the world not near a major body of water.

    • by Packgrog ( 47040 )

      My understanding from my stepfather (who works in the nuclear power industry) is that the low price of natural gas, and low price of startup on the requisite power plants, is killing the nuclear power industry as well. Renewables (solar, hydro, wind) are taking over, with natural gas plants as the back up for lag times.

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @06:23PM (#53876425)

    This plant is one of the worst polluters in the west. It was exempted from the mercury limits rule when they went into effect and it's responsible for 90% of the air pollution and haze in the Grand Canyon. This plant should have been shut down as soon as viable alternatives existed and market forces are finally doing it in.

  • Is Trump going to appear with the CEO to take credit for this one as well?

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @09:27PM (#53877463)
    This story has been "spun" in all kinds of directions, but when it gets down to it the newest unit was built in 1976 and it's getting increasingly expensive to replace parts piecemeal and keep it running. The lease on the land has come up and the choice was to either pay that new expense on top of the ongoing increasing running costs or give up.
    A lot of units of that type from that time were designed for a 20 to 25 year life.
  • The Navajo plant outgasses into the Grand Canyon, where sunlight acting on it produces smog. Let's close it and add another unit to Palo Verde.

    • it is the single largest emitter of pollution in the west through all the mid/south forest.
      Rocky Mountain Forest is loaded with Mercury and lots of pollution due to Navajo.
      It will be nice to have this end.
  • And under the Invisible Hand of the Free Market (tm), which also declared War on Coal!!!

    Oh, yeah, what "government war on coal"? I must have missed that in the corporate change to mountaintop removal, cutting 90% of mining jobs....

  • THis has been being researched for some time. China is the single largest polluter in western America, EXCEPT for this coal plant. This one has been polluting our forest and western cities for decades.
    Now after this, China is the west's single largest source of pollution. Yes, it make all the way to Denver. The question is, what will the west, or even the world do, to stop them.
  • Trump is very likely going to allow the major exporting of oil and nat gas. We will see these go WAY UP IN PRICE in America.
    As long as we invest into nuke power, America will be OK. Otherwise, we are going to see our electricity and nat gas prices go WAY UP, and lose a bunch of our chemical industry jobs.

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