Loudoun gas power plant application up for review Monday

There is a gas power plant application coming up for Board of Supervisors review this Monday, with public input starting at 5PM. So that you have an understanding of this application, here are some key points;

1. (From the PEC) The location of this industrial use conflicts with the County’s Comprehensive Plan. The Comp Plan currently calls for low density residential development (1 unit per 10 acres) at the location being considered, not an industrial power plant. This was a deliberate decision to protect cultural and natural resources in the immediate area, including the Goose Creek Reservoir which provides the surrounding region with drinking water. The public emphatically reaffirmed the vision for the entire Transition Area and this area in particular in a series of public hearings between 2005 and 2008.

2. The plant is primarily full-time (baseload) electricity generation (approx. 600 MW), with some peak-load (approx. 300 MW). The solar component is only 1 MW capacity (when the sun is directly overhead), so that is roughly equal to .25MW actual generation. Hence, the energy generated will be roughly 99.98% from fossil fuels. So the “hybrid” moniker is misleading at best.

3. Virginia imports almost 60% of it’s natural gas, producing 128,454 million cubic feet and consuming 300,000 mcf. So any claim of energy independence is unfounded.

4. The US peaked in natural gas production in 1973. While various current estimates purport large potential resources of shale-bound natural gas in the US, like other energy investment schemes, there has been a significant overestimation intended to bolster the stock value of the main holding company.

From The Oil Drum article “ExxonMobil’s Acquisition of XTO Energy: The Fallacy of the Manufacturing Model in Shale Plays“;

The manufacturing model developed in the Barnett Shale play (Fort Worth basin, Texas), where almost 14,000 wells have been drilled. The greatest number of commercially successful wells are located in two core areas or “sweet spots,” and results are not uniform or repeatable even within these core areas .

The overriding problem with most U.S. shale plays is the lack of any elements of natural reservoir rock. Shale typically has no effective (connected) porosity, and have permeabilities that are hundreds to thousands of times less than the lowest permeability tight sandstone reservoirs. Unless siltstone or sandstone interbeds are present within the shale that have better matrix porosity and permeability, all reservoir is artificial–it must be created by engineering brute force.

Much progress has been made with completion methods, but unless stimulation produces an extensive, micro-fractured rock face, long-term production at commercial volumes is unlikely.

The mainstream belief that shale plays have ensured North America an abundant supply of inexpensive natural gas is not supported by facts or results to date. The supply is real but it will come at higher cost and greater risk than is commonly assumed.

5. Any power generated by this plant will not reduce coal-fired power generation, as that production is cheaper and will continue to be utilized until caps on carbon emissions are instituted. Wind or solar from potential local or nearby sources would be less likely to be implemented, however.

6. Natural gas combustion in a 60% efficient combined cycle generator (like one of the ones proposed) produces about 40% of the carbon emissions that a typical coal plant produces.

7. Green Energy Partners has claimed 90% efficiency with their main combined cycle, though this presumes they would export the excess heat to nearby buildings. There are no buildings nearby that can readily take advantage of this potentially wasted heat (the Wegman’s complex over 2 miles away already has new, efficient HVAC systems that would hardly be ripped out and replaced).

8. One way “peaker” gas power plants can complement wind and solar power generation is through the ability to ramp up and down quickly as conditions vary. The current power plant configuration is predominantly baseload generation, however, with 1/3 of it’s generation as ‘peaker’.

The public hearing starts at at 5:00 PM at the first floor Board Room of the County Government Center. If you can’t attend, please send an email to the Board today.

Add to the discussion at the Sustainable Loudoun forum under Natural Gas Power Generation.

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