May 6, 2009

Canceling Coal: A Capital Idea

Recently the Architect of the U.S. Capitol announced that the Capitol Power Plant will be converted to run on natural gas instead of coal. The Capitol Power Plant marks yet another example of the trend against coal. Nearby, coal plants are being converted to run on renewable energy like biopower. Biopower and natural gas might not be perfect, but they demonstrate that there are viable alternatives to dirty coal.

To be sure, not all of the decisions coming out of Washington are praiseworthy, but I think this one is.

Read the Capitol Architect's letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid here.

Capitol Power Plant to stop use of coal
Posted: 05/01/09 06:10 PM [ET]

House and Senate leadership formally announced on Friday that coal would no longer be used to heat and cool the Capitol and surrounding office buildings – for the most part.

Coal will continue to be used in three different scenarios as “emergency backup,” according to the leaders.

“For years, the Capitol Power Plant has been the largest source of carbon emissions on the Capitol Complex,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a statement.

“The Architect’s switch to cleaner burning natural gas shows that the House and Senate are leading by example in reducing our emissions. I look forward to working with the Architect’s office to achieve even greater energy savings and efficiency through our greening programs.”

Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) previously announced they intended to stop the plant’s use of coal.

In explaining situations where coal would still be used, Pelosi and Reid in a joint statement referenced a letter sent to them last week by the overseer of the Capitol Power Plant (CPP).

If the heating needs of the Capitol and surrounding office buildings exceed the capacity of the natural gas pipeline currently serving the complex, which still needs to be enlarged to allot for the increased usage of natural gas, coal may have to be used, acting-Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers wrote in the letter.

Also, if abnormally cold conditions place larger than normal demands on the CPP or if any of the gas burning equipment breaks and needs repair, the plant may have to revert to burning a percentage of coal during that interim.

In February, Pelosi and Reid requested the Capitol Power Plant switch to natural gas – a more environmentally friendly form of energy – for all of its energy production by the end of 2009. In their announcement on Friday however, they did not set a firm timeline.

As part of the transition to using only natural gas, Ayers has requested $10 million to redesign and convert the remaining coal burner to be natural gas capable, a process that he said could be complete as early as November, 2010.

The CPP has traditionally used a combination of fuel, natural gas and coal to create steam energy to heat and cool the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings. The plant is currently the largest source of pollution in Washington.

Ayers said in his letter that the AoC was still in the process of refining the “master plan” for the future of the Capitol Power Plant and has asked the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Academies to review it for feedback.

No comments:

Post a Comment