Keith Stapleton addresses an audience at the Central Baptist Family Center in Livingston.
SHECO Representative Speaks to Local Group About Alternative Energy in East Texas, LIVINGSTON, October 11, 2010 - SHECO Representative Keith Stapleton gave a presentation at the Waypoint Men's Fellowship on Monday evening at Central Baptist Family Center. Stapleton talked to the group about renewable energy resources and two projects in particular that are on the horizon for East Texas (one right here in Polk County).
As Things Stand... 70 percent of our energy comes from coal and around 30 percent from natural gas. Stapleton stated that America has enough coal to power our country for the next 200 - 250 years. Stapleton pointed out that coal is burned in a much cleaner way today, and coal is inexpensive, however, the environmental movement and environmental regulations are making it increasingly difficult to construct a coal fired generation plant to produce electricity. "It's just been a real challenge from an environmental perspective to build a coal fired generation" he said. "There's been a couple permitted in the last year and it's probably going to be the last two for a good while", he said.
Renewable Resources... Renewable energy is a source of energy that is replenished by natural phenomena, such as wood or the water held behind by a dam used for hydroelectrical purposes. "Renewables are great, but they're also kind of expensive to produce", he said. "The wind doesn't blow all the time, and the sun doesn't shine all the time" he said when talking about wind power and solar power, "...the two compliment each other, when the wind is down in the afternoon, then the solar is at it's peak, so that's a good thing" he said, "...but those are not as reliable as coal, or natural gas, or even hydro or biomass".
Hydro... Hydro electricity is using running water (like water passing through gates of Lake Livingston Dam) to generate electricity. Approved funds will be used toward the construction of a hydroelectric power generation facility located on the Polk County side of the Lake Livingston Dam along the Trinity River. Developed in cooperation with the Trinity River Authority of Texas (TRA), according to Stapleton the new 24-megawatt plant will produce enough electricity to power up to 24,000 homes. The project should be complete by 2013. The cost of the project is around $80 million. There's lots of federal support and the project is not a SHECO project, rather, ETEC. ETEC is a group of 10 East Texas electric cooperatives that pool their resources to achieve a common goal: providing safe, reliable, affordable power to their members under the banner of East Texas Electric Cooperative (ETEC). Some people are wondering if hydro electricity means that Lake Livingston will be drained. No. The way it works is when the TRA opens the gates to let water through, then electricity will be generated.
Biomass... Biomass energy is defined by any organic materials that can be burned and used as a source of fuel. Wood is the main source of biomass such as saw-dust or any type of waste from wood. Approved funds (again with generous federal support) will be used toward the construction of a biomass plant in Woodville, Texas, which will generate 50 megawatts of power and will be fueled by wood chips, which are plentiful in the piney woods of East Texas. The biomass plant will be receiving around 65 truck loads a day of wood waste. "They're not going to be cutting down trees to produce electricity", Stapleton said, "That would not be cost effective". The biomass plant should be online and providing power by 2014. The biomass is also environmentally friendly and is carbon neutral (meaning that trees laying on the floor of the forest produce more greenhouse gasses than burning the wood in a biomass facility). The burning is filtered and 99.5 percent of the emissions from the burning will not go into the air, but will be filtered out. The refuse from burning comes to about 1 truckload a day which is sold and used in the concrete business. "This biomass facility will help clean the forest floor so that rotting trees built up wont be choking the growth of the forest". The cost of the biomass facility is around $190 million.
About 73 MegaWatts... The combination of the two renewable energy facilities will produce around 73 megawatts of power. That will power upwards of 70,000 homes. "It's all about planning for the future so that our kids and grandkids can have affordable electricity" Stapleton said. ETEC will be 100 percent owner in both projects.