Power plant not really 'green'
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 10:00 PM
Last weeks ribbon cutting for the repurposed Crawfordsville Power Plant purchased by Sterling Energy Group was a well-attended event with many smiling faces anticipating the maintenance of a handful of jobs in the community. While I applaud Mayor Barton's attempt to find a way to find value in an old building, I am concerned that the risks regarding keeping this coal fired power plant operating does not warrant the small benefits that may be gained by continuing its operation.
Bill Harrington, Sterling's CEO described in vague terms his vision of creating a "green" energy company that would utilize modern technology. While this rhetoric sounds good the evidence that I saw while touring the plant suggests a different reality. The power plant is currently operating the coal-burning furnace installed in the 1950s to generate a modest amount of electricity. Coal is trucked in from southern Indiana and the coal ash returned to southern Indiana via the same trucks. The plant has been upgraded to include some modern digital controls, however the furnace and generators are unchanged from two generations ago. Operation of the plant therefore results is considerable release of CO2 and particulate matter into the atmosphere with little direct benefit to the community.
Sterling claims that they will use the power plant to test innovative methods for generating power including the use of heavy metal laden waste coal in a unique gasification process. Operation of this waste coal research project at the power plant within a mile of the center of town seems risky to the environment and the health of the community. Even if they are successful in using waste coal to generate power in an environmentally acceptable manner the benefits to the community appear to be minimal.
Sterling has tried very hard to demonstrate that they want to be a good member of the community by joining the Chamber of Commerce and participating in a golf fundraiser for the Boys and Girls club. Again this appears to be a good thing, however none of the executives of the company will be living here in Crawfordsville to enjoy the contamination to which our community will certainly be exposed by their operations of this plant.
Overall, I view the change of hands of the power plant from CEL&P to Sterling as one step forward and two steps backward in establishing a high quality of life and livable community wherein wealth can be created and families can thrive.
Michael P. Fons