There’s an article in the Chicago Tribune today, setting the transmission discussion as binary, transmission against renewable energy, but it’s not.  We can have it all, if we do our conservation, SERIOUS conservation, and site generation carefully and thoughtfully, displacing fossil fuel generation with combinations of intermittent renewables, utilizing the existing infrastructure

Transmission v. Green: Any characterization like this should be checked out further because it’s just not that simple.  The Christian Science Monitor did a little looking a year ago and lo and behold…

Indeed, the new corridors are not needed to boost reliability, say state officials and some grid-reliability experts. They say the corridors are aimed mainly at making it possible for large, deregulated utilities to profit from transmitting cheap coal-fired power from the Ohio Valley to the East Coast.

What raises suspicions for some is the sweeping scope of the corridor along the Eastern Seaboard. Transmission planners and engineers say upgrades to existing lines could address reliability without a need for most new lines. The two new corridors are not exactly narrow pathways for power lines, but encompass wide swaths of 11 states. The new Mid-Atlantic power corridor, for instance, encompasses 116,000 square miles.

“The FERC cited the Hudson Valley in New York as a bottleneck for power – but that’s wrong,” says George Loehr, a power engineer and executive committee member of the New York State Reliability Council. “It’s just that independent generating companies in upstate New York would like to be able to move more power to New York City and Long Island. That’s the highest priced market and would earn them more money there. But that’s not a reliability issue.”

But of course “that’s not a reliability issue.”  That’s because the purpose of all this transmission is to make money, not to address reliability.  It’s about those market transactions and displacing natural gas with coal, which is laid out right here, the purpose of the MISO Midwest Markets and all the benefits of the market, like payment for excess generation, payment for transmission services halfway across the universe…

ICF – MISO Benefits Analysis

Today’s Chicago Tribune article:

The desert and green power: A love triangle
The pristine Mojave. Clean energy for a city that needs it. Do environmentalists have to choose?

By Michael Martinez | Tribune correspondent
12:22 AM CDT, August 18, 2008

PIONEERTOWN, Calif. — April Sall is a keeper of the Mojave Desert and its mountains, tending a private conservancy in the same canyon where her grandmother homesteaded in the 1920s.

Once considered wasteland, this expanse of sunshine and wind is now a prized battleground between unlikely opponents. For generations, conservationists like Sall’s family have guarded the landscape, but 21st Century demands for renewable energy are threatening to crash into the pristine desert, now deemed a gold mine for solar, wind and geothermal farms.

Unlike offshore drilling and other oil and gas ventures in which developers and environmentalists are obvious adversaries, renewable energy is increasingly pitting two kinds of green advocates against each other as the nation seeks alternative sources in the face of record oil prices and global warming, both sides say.

The issue bears upon building a new infrastructure—such as gargantuan transmission towers or wind turbines—to connect remote areas where clean energy is being harvested while conservationists vigilantly protect the land and its life.

Big plans, big stakes

Such conflicts have played out in the Midwest, but the stakes are acute in California, where new state laws demand industry cut carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and require private utilities to generate 20 percent renewable energy by 2010.

Near Pipes Canyon—where Sall, a preserve manager for the non-profit Wildlands Conservancy, resides—a group led by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is considering building a leg of transmission lines between a substation outside Palm Springs and one in Hesperia, about 80 miles away.

Called Green Path North, the lines would ultimately connect Los Angeles and other communities to the Salton Sea’s 2,000 megawatts of geothermal power—enough to juice 2 million homes—as well as solar and wind plants. The utility group will select from six potential routes, including one as long as 313 miles, but a dispute over a “preferred” route through Pipes Canyon and the broader Morongo Basin has residents fuming.

“There’s some conflict due to what’s been described as a feeding frenzy for renewable energy in the desert,” Sall, 28, said as she walked through a landscape of mesas and the Sawtooth Mountains that surround Pipes Canyon and adjacent Pioneertown. The setting is so evocative of the Old West that Roy Rogers and other cowboy actors built Pioneertown in 1946, and Hollywood made more than 200 movies and TV serials here, such as “The Gene Autry Show,” “The Cisco Kid” and ” Annie Oakley.”

“If you’re going to destroy conservation and pristine lands, then yeah, how green is it in the end?” Sall asked. She favors cities building solar plants on warehouse roofs, for example, but the utilities say the desert’s geothermal fields provide a steady stream of power and do not rely on weather conditions as solar and wind power do.

Still, the dispute has led to tense meetings, and residents set up a Web site condemning the renewable-energy transmission lines through their communities.

No easy answer

As Congress and presumptive presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama struggle with the nation’s energy crisis, developing alternative energy poses conflicts too.

“We’re really at the forefront of a discussion that is certainly going to be repeated throughout the state of California and nationally as well,” said David Nahai, general manager and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The nation’s biggest municipal utility, the department has set a goal of providing 35 percent renewable energy by 2020, up from the current 8 percent.

“All of us are going to face this challenge of where to build transmission corridors in a way that is going to impact the local communities as little as possible,” he said.

The farther the green source is from urban users, the greater the risk of controversy, industry leaders say.

“It’s interesting that we consider some of these areas as pristine and we don’t want to put turbines or solar or transmission lines there, but they are suitable for [housing] development. There’s sort of an irony there,” said Mick Sagrillo, president of the non-profit Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

In the Mojave’s Morongo Basin, open space advocates fear transmission towers—as high as 220 feet, with rights of way as wide as 330 feet—would endanger a wildlife corridor. But Los Angeles officials said they haven’t determined tower sizes.

The California Desert Coalition, which opposes the towers, says the Los Angeles utility identified the Morongo Basin as the “preferred” route last year when helicopters landed on private property and the utility’s crews laid survey disks and markers in the area. Later the utility apologized, calling it a “premature” move.

Residents want the transmission lines confined to an existing Southern California Edison corridor along Interstate Highway 10, but those lines are running at capacity, Los Angeles officials said.

Nahai, who joined the Los Angeles utility last year after the controversial helicopter surveys, acknowledges mistrust among angry residents, whom he visited last month in a meeting that was heated and raucous.

“We need to continuously talk to people and need to gain their trust and confidence,” Nahai said.

Seems they ought to read that article from Christian Science Monitor, one that lets reality see some ink on paper, and do a little research!

Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project, coal gasification for the Iron Range, had yet another bad day at the PUC. PHEW!!! GOOD!

It’s not done yet, EEEEEUW, BAD, but it’s one slow step closer. Excelsior lost big — all its motions were tossed out. But the life support was extended until May 1, 2008. Issues:

  1. Make finding that it’s an Innovative Energy Project a “Final Decision.” Separate this out from all the other issues in this mess and let it be FInal. PUC said no.
  2. Let Excelsior Energy enter more Exceptions. MORE! Haven’t we heard enough on this, and over and over and over and over… and the PUC said ENOUGH, no, no more!
  3. Require that an Independent Consultant be hired a la Big Stone II, another docket where the PUC hasn’t the balls to say yes to the ALJ Recommendation and say no to the project. PUC said we don’t need an expert, we’ve got enough information.
  4. They gave Excelsior Energy and Xcel another 9 months to fart around, with reports due every 90 days, and if they don’t come up with a PPA by then or both come to PUC asking for an extension, it will be considered closed.  Yes, it’s good to have some likely finality, but that’s a long way out, a lot can happen in nine months!

I think it was Commissioner Wergin’s first meeting, for sure it was one of the first, and she made a good debut. She challenged Tom Osteraas’ characterization of legislative intent — GOOD — it helps that somebody was there who remembers. She also spoke up about all that they’d submitted, stating that she’d been reading through the piles of crap submitted (well, she didn’t put it quite that way) and had the issue of entering additional Exceptions, and she felt they had plenty of opportunities and didn’t need another round.

From Aaron Brown:

Excelsior dealt serious blow at PUC

Here’s the article from Hibbing Daily News (thanks to a little birdie for this!):

MPUC rules against Excelsior

But Micheletti sees silver lining

by Mike Jennings, Editor

Published: Friday, August 15, 2008 6:12 AM CDT

ST. PAUL — Excelsior Energy suffered a major setback Thursday in its bid to build a coal gasification power plant on the Iron Range, but the company’s founder says he still has reason to hope for long-term success.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission endorsed an administrative law judge’s findings that Excelsior did not qualify to be guaranteed a buyer for massive amounts of power. In a September 2007 report, the administrative law judge found that Excelsior fell short of the required standard — that it employ a “clean energy technology” that also promises low overall costs.

The commission’s ruling on Thursday ends, at least for the time being, the prospect that Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, could be forced to buy up to 13 percent of the power it distributes to its retail customers from Excelsior. The Legislature created a framework in which that could happen, but only if Excelsior met stringent standards of cleanliness and cost. The commission put off another key decision point by settting next May 1 as the end date for negotiations between Excelsior and Xcel on a possible power purchase agreement. The commission ruled last August that Excelsior’s proposed terms for selling the 603-megawatt output of its initial generating unit to Xcel would be counter to the public interest, but it allowed the two companies to continue discussions aimed at a purchase agreement.

Burl Haar, the commission’s executive secretary, said Thursday that he didn’t think the commission was likely to grant any extension of negotiations beyond next May 1.

“My sense is that this is meant to be a deadline, and that if nothing is brought forward by that time I don’t know that the commission would be inclined to consider further proposals,” he said.

The commission also voted Thursday against three motions by Excelsior, clearing the way for the key votes on the cleanliness and cost question and the deadline for negotiations. The five commissioners voted unanimously on all questions related to Excelsior, according to Tom Micheletti, Excelsior’s founder and co-chief executive officer.

Micheletti said Thursday that he found reason for hope in the deadline extension and in comments that some commissioners made during the meeting. By next May, Micheletti said, Excelsior might be able to prove its power would be cheaper than Big Stone 2, a traditional coal-fired power plant proposed for construction near Milbank, S.D., that would supply power to the Minnesota grid.

Micheletti said commissioners seemed interested to hear that Excelsior was discussing possible power sales with utilities other than Xcel. Some commissioners had been concerned that Xcel might be forced to accept Excelsior’s entire output, he said.

The commission “clearly does not want us to go away,” Micheletti said.

He accused Minnesota Power Co. of working “arm in arm and hand in hand” with Xcel to kill Excelsior’s proposed Mesaba Energy Project, which is estimated to cost over $2 billion.

“We have bent over backwards to try to be cooperative with Minnesota Power,” even offering the utility part-ownership in the Mesaba project, Micheletti said. “But they have a different agenda.”

Excelsior’s plans for the project include the construction of two power-generating units, either near Taconite, the company’s preferred site, or near Hoyt Lakes.

The Mesaba project would employ integrated gasification combined cycle technology, a process in which coal is converted to a gas high in hydrogen through a process called gasification. The gas is then used as a primary fuel for a gas turbine.

Excelsior claims its process would reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent, compared to the next-best coal technology, and would cut mercury emissions by 90 percent.

Micheletti also says the Mesaba plant would also be well suited for the capture of more carbon, which could be shipped by pipeline to a site where it could be injected deep underground. The company has not yet offered a detailed plan for carbon sequestration, however.

Mike Jennings can be reached at To read this story and comment on it online go to

Micheletti’s right about one thing, that the Commission “clearly does not want us to go away.” They just won’t pull the plug, drive in the silver stake, they just don’t have the balls to do it. WHY? I think there’s an interesting story there.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Legislative Auditor about the IRR’s Mesaba Project expenditures should be out soon. Now this should be good — going through Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project documentation to the IRR and finding the $1,200 in golf balls, a trip to a candidate fundraiser, big buck hotel in Washington and “movies,” and a trip to Italy was choice, and this will probably go a lot further than those juicy discoveries!

Another coal plant bites the dust — #68 so far per Bruce Nilles, Sierra Club. Another good news aspect is that it’s a Gates investment, or shall I say “Cascade Investments, LLC” which is the Gates’ investment arm, the same Cascade Investments, LLC that has invested in Big Stone! So, is Big Stone next? The scenario is similar, “doubling the plant size” and the heat is on…

PNM Resources drops Texas coal-plant expansion
Tue Aug 12, 2008 12:44pm EDT

HOUSTON, Aug 12 (Reuters) – PNM Resources’ Energy Co venture with Cascade Investments LLC has dropped a plan to double the size of a Texas coal plant, the company said on Tuesday.

Albuquerque, New Mexico-based PNM (PNM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said in a release it would not pursue a 305-megawatt expansion at its Twin Oak coal-fired plant in Robertson County, about 130 miles (210 km) northwest of Houston. The existing Twin Oaks plant has two units, totaling 300 MW.

The company did not give a reason in the statement.

Last year, PNM signed a non-binding letter of intent to contribute the existing coal units to Energy Co, an unregulated energy joint venture with Bill Gates’ Cascade Investments unit.

PNM also said it will sell its Texas electric retail business unit, First Choice Power, and reduce its dividend payment as it works to restore the financial health of its regulated utility business in New Mexico, according to the release.

(Reporting by Eileen O’Grady; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Kenya hits Doggiespace

August 12th, 2008

Yup, too much time on my hands… but Kenya’s in early stage renal failure and it’s time she made her mark in cyberspace:

Kenya in Doggiespace

Blogs for Dogs… Yup, this is what the internet is all about, how did we ever get by without it?

Biogas for Rock-Tenn?

August 5th, 2008

Supposedly the St. Paul Port Authority has recommended biogas as fuel for Rock-Tenn.  Now just what does “biogas” mean?  And produced in “rural Minnesota” and sent via pipeline?  What pipeline, through whose yards? And a twist – Rock-Tenn must commit for 10 years?  GOOD, that’s a first… and a necessary requirement to commit to stay if their steam needs are government subsidized.  Would 10 years be enough to justify that level of public spend?  Can the public get an equity interest for its investment?


Hone asked for an assurance that refuse-derived fuel is definitively “off the table.” She didn’t get it, as both Klein and Carpenter said they could not make that statement.

From the Daily Planet:

Rock-Tenn fuel plans: Win/win at last?

Here’s the article from STrib:

Biogas is endorsed as best fuel for recycler

So biogas “endorsed” but garbage not off table.  What does the “endorsement” mean?