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.


jwhite6069 said...

Just out of curiosity....what is your take on the massive power outage in Arizona and Southern California that happened last night.e power outage in Arizona and Southern California that happened last night.

Billy Ray said...

It now appears that the outage was caused by a fairly common error during a switching operation at a major substation. My only comment is that our electric power grid is exceedingly complex and humans make mistakes sometimes. With electric power, small mistakes can be deadly and instantaneously impact vast numbers of homes and businesses.

Since these events rarely happen, we all tend to assume that electric power is simple to deliver 24 X 7 X 365, but it is not. The levels of reliability we enjoy come from the skill and dedication of many, many humans. On rare occasions, the system fails.