by Cyndy Cole, Sun Staff Reporter
Arizona Daily Sun
08 March 2010
Members of several conservation groups opposed
to coal mining have contributed to a report saying the owners of
Navajo Generating Station in Page would be best off financially if
they closed the coal plant.
Figuring in financial costs for releasing
greenhouse gases under some sort of federal limits (which don't
exist today), and uncertain costs for coal supplies into the
future, the authors conclude that Salt River Project could make
perhaps $158 million by shutting Navajo and investing it in
renewable energy instead.
One contributor called it a big-picture report
that he hopes will prompt utilities to think about what would
happen when or if the country gets serious about cutting
"It provides more questions than answers, but I
think (the report) has value because utilities and Arizona
Corporation Commission aren't asking these questions," said Roger
Clark, of the Grand Canyon Trust, who was consulted in the writing
of the report.
A THOUSAND JOBS AT STAKE
But a spokesman for SRP pointed out the local
costs of a closure, which were not contained in the report.
Navajo Generating Station employs 545 people
full time, and the mine that feeds it provides another 400 jobs
with Peabody Western Coal, plus royalties to the Navajo Nation,
said Scott Harelson, an SRP spokesman.
SRP currently gets about 6.5 percent of its
retail energy from renewable sources.
The authors, with a group called Natural
Capitalism Solutions, propose more efficient energy use,
retraining people who now work in the coal energy industry, and
covering 134 million square feet of the 336-mile Central Arizona
Project canals with solar panels. The cost of that project would
be perhaps $8 billion and would take maybe 20 years to recoup.
The report did not say how that $8 billion
price tag would be financed. But Clark said utility customers
should push for much more renewable energy now -- while up-front
costs for renewables can be more expensive than traditional power,
fuel costs to harness the wind and sun stay stable.
"The fuel price on renewables is fixed. It's
zero. And so if you're looking at long-term power projects, that's
something you should be looking at," he said.
At present, if the United States government
were to adopt carbon-capping legislation and set a price on it,
SRP would pass any fees that would result at the coal plant along
to its customers.
CLEAN AIR AN ISSUE
In 1991, the plant's owners put about $450
million into reducing sulfur produced from the power plant's
Currently, the plant is undergoing another
retrofit to cut one more pollutant, at a cost of $43 million.
It's up to the Environmental Protection Agency
to decide, possibly this fall, whether the plant needs to go
further to clean the air, as managers at the National Park Service
have advocated, to improve views more at the Grand Canyon.
In 2005, the Navajo Generating Station produced
690,527 tons of carbon dioxide and 91 pounds of mercury -- the
latter an element found in Lake Mary fish, leading to advisory
limits on how many fish can be eaten.
The report cites data from other regions
showing a link between coal mining or coal burning and increased
risk of health problems and death.
Clark says it doesn't matter whether his group
supports or opposes coal burning in Page, but that coal supplies
will eventually run out under any scenario, and the plant will
Harelson of SRP would not put a date on any such
The coal plant is scheduled to operate into
2024, according to filings with federal agencies.
VALUE IN SHUTTING DOWN
In all, the report puts the plant's pollution
credits, water value, a premium for switching to green electricity
and avoided coal-purchasing costs at about $1.3 billion.
The report proposed SRP look at the value of
water to cool the plant, for example, which was put at $3 million
to $36 million per year, and at increased coal costs possible
under climate change legislation.
The 2,250 megawatt plant burns a maximum of
25,000 tons of coal in a day, according to the report, brought in
from the Black Mesa area by train.
Power from the plant is used, in part, in Los
Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas, including to move water
through the Central Arizona Project to central and southern
A coal plant provides power to meet ongoing,
steady power needs.
One difficulty with wind and solar renewables
is that they don't always produce maximum power when utilities
need it (they're not as steady), and energy storage options are
Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607 or at