KEEPING IT SIMPLE: Future is renewable energy, but Coronado needs to be saved – White Mountain Independent

September 23, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Uncategorized

There has been a lot of talk lately about solar and wind energy as a viable alternative to coal-fired power plants like the Coronado Generating Station a few miles outside St. Johns.

A recent meeting at the St. Johns High School on that very topic was civil, but included a lot of heated opinions against recent Environmental Protection Agency rulings that could hit local residents hard in the wallet, should the EPA get its way. 

The ongoing controversy revolves mostly around the potential loss of jobs due to Environmental Protection Agency clean power requirements to reduce regional emissions and haze from the Coronado plant, that employs more that 230 people and contributes millions every year to the local economy.

And rightly so because if the plant does not comply with costly retrofits on Unit 1, it will have to shut down in a few years. That means job losses in a county that is among the poorest in the nation.

If the plant as whole does not comply with all EPA requirements by 2029, it will have to shut down completely.

Apache County and Arizona simply cannot afford to let that happen.

Our leaders in Phoenix cannot keep ignoring us just because we are poor, unimportant, and out of sight and out of mind as far as state legislators are concerned.

What I am going to say next will likely not sit well with supporters of coal-fired power plants across the nation.

But I am one of the people who are of the opinion that alternative energy is the way of the future.

There is only a finite supply of coal.

Someday it will run out.

Biomass from forest thinning is being tested at the Coronado Generating Station.

But according to the EPA, even that produces too much smoke, which creates regional haze.

Forget that Arizona is a desert state where haze is always in the air.

Even so, I am still of the opinion that environmentalists are on the right track with renewable alternative energy.

But that opinion comes with a caveat.

Neither wind nor solar power storage capacities are yet at a level that would allow utility companies like Arizona Public Service to guarantee customers a reliable supply of electricity at the flip of a switch.

Batteries are getting better and better every day, but as of yet they simply won’t store enough energy for a long enough period of time with being replenished to keep electricity flowing to homes and business when there is little wind or sun.

Arizona is one of the sun capitols of the world, but in places like the White Mountains, there are times when skies are clouded for three or four days in a row because of rain and snow.

When that happens solar or wind energized batteries run out of power.

For myself and others who live off-grid, that means using a generator (or generator/battery charger combination to charge batteries) to have electricity.

If local utility companies had poles in my remote location  — and someday they might — I would jump at the chance to get hooked up so that when my solar power does not cut it, all I have to do is switch to utility company supplied power.

If the Coronado Generating Station is forced to shut down, that is not an option.

The EPA needs to take such things into account when they demand that traditional coal-fired power plants install costly retrofits to reduce emissions as a stop gap before switching to solar or wind power within a relatively short period of time.

Now to the part that power companies may not like all that much. We must switch to solar and wind power for a number of reasons.

Not the least of which that they are both renewable and both can be brought to level of being much more affordable for the person who pays the bill.

I know that for myself, using solar power exclusively unless the sun does not shine, the cost of installing panels, batteries and wiring has long since been offset by the savings I have enjoyed in the last two and half years.

That money has gone right back into the local economy rather than to a utility company.

Last but not least in connection with alternative energy and utility companies, I am going to invoke the recent fight between Arizona Corporation Commissioners Robert Burns and fellow commissioners Doug Little and Tom Forese over disclosure of monies reportedly given to and used by APS to allegedly fund Little’s and Forese’s Nov. bids for re-election.

It is in the best interest of taxpayers and the people who pay sometimes huge, even unaffordable utility bills, to know who is funding political campaigns and how they will profit from it.

Anything less is a rip off of hard working people who are the true supporters of this nation.

So call your government leaders in both Phoenix and D.C. and tell them to stop looking the other way and demand transparency in all aspects of government.

The American people are not stupid.

Give us all the accurate, timely, and credible information needed, and I guarantee we can make decisions at least as good as those our elected officials make.

Or fail to make, as the case may be.


Mike Leiby is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent