Blog Archive

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Glasgow Energy Campus - A Bold New Idea

You may have heard about our intent to issue a Request for Proposals on a project we are calling Glasgow Energy Campus. Glasgow EPB, Glasgow Water Company, and the City of Glasgow have been discussing and studying the possibility of developing this “energy campus” approach to unifying the byproducts of the Glasgow Regional Landfill, the Glasgow Waste Water Treatment Plant, and the region's active logging operations. The project will thus form a unified campus to harvest combustible gasses and blend them with a stream of biomass products from logging to produce electric power. The idea has been percolating for a couple of years and has the potential to help clean up our local environment and the watershed which creates our drinking water. The project could also lower costs and improve the efficiency of our area's agricultural animal operations and increase the useful life of our regional landfill. Glasgow Energy Campus might do all of these things while providing a local source of clean, renewable energy for life in Glasgow which is not dependent on an uninterrupted supply of energy from massive utilities like TVA. Since we are on the northern extreme of the TVA grid, a tornado event like the one that impacted Alabama this spring could totally isolate us from our power supply.

We envision a multifaceted project that would include a biomass fueled power generator, development of a methane recovery system for the Glasgow Regional Landfill that would gather and route the combustible gas into the boiler for the generator, and using the effluent from the Glasgow Waste Water Treatment Plant for the boiler's make-up water. Further, we think that alterations to Glasgow’s WWTP could be made to allow local beef, dairy, chicken, and pig farmers to transport animal wastes to the WWTP for conversion to combustible gases which would also be routed to the boiler.

Of course, we would not move forward with this project unless we could be guaranteed that the power could be sold back to TVA for more than the cost of building and maintaining the facility. But, if this project can be designed to be economically feasible, Glasgow would be largely energy self-sufficient and we would make dramatic improvements in our local environment. The use of the WWTP effluent in the boiler would dramatically decrease the residual organic compounds presently being dumped in South Fork Creek. Moreover, if animal wastes could be transported to the WWTP instead of languishing in scores of agricultural animal waste lagoons in Barren County, the purity of the ground water and surface water which drains into Barren River Reservoir should increase. Other positive results would include improving the health of aquatic life in our streams and lowering the cost of treating our drinking water supply. This sounds utopian, but Glasgow might be unique in that we already have a well developed timber harvesting and transporting infrastructure combined with a waste water plant, mature landfill, and electric transmission lines all on the same site. This definitely can work. A preliminary study by Johnson Controls, Inc. has already affirmed that this is possible and economically viable, if the energy can be sold to TVA through Glasgow EPB for about ten cents per kWh.

Barren County is the most productive dairy and beef cattle county in Kentucky and ranks quite high in the chicken and hog production in Kentucky. This proposed Glasgow Energy Campus could help make these businesses more profitable and less damaging to our environment by diverting the waste to a productive and beneficial process. The Glasgow Regional Landfill is collecting municipal solid waste from Barren County and several surrounding counties so a constant stream of methane producing fuel is already available. The biomass aspects of the project would increase the life of the Regional Landfill by diverting wood products that are now going into the facility, or being wasted in other ways.

The RFP process we are now starting will help move the project from a sketchy idea to one which is fully fleshed out and priced. While this further study is needed, preliminary findings predict a $195 million facility that will be carbon neutral, very clean burning due to the availability of combustible gases to enhance the boiler and smokestack efficiency. Glasgow has the resources, and certainly has the need, to plan a sustainable energy economy for the life of our community well into the future. Stay tuned to these EPB postings for more information on the Glasgow Energy Campus as our work progresses.
Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rates and Network Investments to Increase on October 1

The cost of electric power from Glasgow EPB will increase on October 1. And even though no one likes to hear that, and we certainly don’t like to implement it, there are many good things that will come from this move.

A part of the increased cost will come from TVA’s recent decision to increase the wholesale rates they charge the distributors of TVA power like Glasgow EPB. Their increase of 2% comes on the heels of their change to Time Of Use (TOU) wholesale rates which became applicable to Glasgow in April. Even though TVA’s monthly fuel cost adjustment keeps their wholesale rates variable each month depending on their luck in generating power with hydroelectric dams and the market conditions for the coal, natural gas, and uranium it takes to fuel the generators which provide our power, this increase is applicable to their base rates. Their increase will go toward TVA’s plans to idle 18 coal fired generation units over the next five years and replace those units with additional natural gas and nuclear generation facilities. Some of this money will also be used to place additional environmental controls on the coal-fired units they are going to maintain. It is virtually certain that we will see continued increases in our wholesale costs each year as they work through their aggressive plan to transform and clean up their generation resources.

Of course, the best steps that TVA can take to clean up their generation portfolio are those relating to TOU rates which can convince us all to use less power during peak times and more power in the off-peak times. You have surely heard us talking about this a lot over the last six months, and even though most have heard about it, and some have really gotten on board with the plan to change the times of day that we use electricity, most have not yet begun to change their usage patterns. The problem has been right in front of us all each day during the hot summer. A graphic showing our daily energy usage has been in the upper right hand corner of the Glasgow internet homepage all summer, and every afternoon we have had dramatic peak demands – the kind that makes the cost of generating electricity much higher. Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do!

While TVA ponders their revenue needs and how they will further implement TOU rates, locally, Glasgow EPB has been continuing its preparations for the TOU environment. We have been steadily investing and building our electric system and our broadband system to be capable of delivering TOU rates to our customers as soon as TVA makes them available. The local electric rate increase, amounting to about 4.6%, that we will implement on October 1, which is in addition to the TVA mandated increase, will be used to fund projects that continue those system upgrades, and a few other things as well.

We will use the additional revenue to put more technology in place which we hope will make us more successful at convincing customers to change the way they use electric power. TOU rates are already being charged to Glasgow EPB by TVA, and one prime reason for our need to increase electric rates is the poor participation we got from most customers this summer as we asked them to conserve on summer week day afternoons. Since the cost of power from TVA is also going steadily upward, we will use some of our additional revenue to rebuild certain electrical circuits with larger conductors. Some energy is lost in transmission and when the cost of energy goes up, it makes great economic sense for our future to install larger conductor that is less prone to losses than the older, smaller conductors. We also have additional expenses that must be funded. One of those is the large increases in our annual in lieu of tax payments we make to local governments and schools. The addition of our new East Glasgow Substation and the transmission lines coming and going from it have dramatically increased the value of our system. When that happens, just like when the value of your property increases, we are required by law to increase our payments to local schools and governments proportionately.

So, even though no one would wish for electric rates to increase, as you can see these increases will result in additional investment in the local network which is so essential to life in Glasgow, as well as improvements in the TVA network which is so important to our region. Unlike some segments of our country’s highways, bridges, airports, and other infrastructure, TVA and EPB are continuing to invest and rebuild our networks such that they remain modern and increasingly reliable. This is the way we make life in Glasgow better than life in other communities. That is what we are here for and we are determined to do this work for you.