McKinley questions push toward solar, wind power


PARKERSBURG — A U.S. Representative from West Virginia wants answers on the supposed benefits of wind and solar power before the nation commits to eliminating gas and coal generation.

David McKinley, R-1st, was in Parkersburg Monday talking about technology for carbon capture and the need to invest in that as opposed to eliminating coal- and gas-powered generation in favor of solar and wind forms of generation.

The congressman talked about the Mitchell Power Plant in Marshall County and hearings before the state Public Service Commission for a 1.5 percent rate increase and updates to the facility, the fourth largest power plant in the state, which would require $150 million to $200 million to address environmental improvements dealing with river and fly ash emissions. An issue is half the facility is owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and questions arose if both sides can’t find a common way forward to address the needs, McKinley said.

“I don’t want it to go dark,” McKinley said, adding he has talked to different people and companies about investing in the facility if Kentucky does not want to continue with it.

“We could have another 15-20 years of life on it,” McKinley said.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., speaks on Capitol Hill in this file photo. (AP Photo)

The congressman believes the push to close the plant and others like it are part of a plan by enviromental groups to eliminate coal- and gas-powered power plants in the U.S. by 2035 and replace them with solar- and wind-generating facilities.

Using the Amos Power Plant in Putnam County as an example, McKinley said it is a 3,000 megawatt facility.

“How many windmills will it take to do that?” he said, adding most of the time such facilities are only around 30 percent efficient.

He said it would take about 1,500 windmills to generate that amount of power and to make up for the efficiency lost while charging the battery backups which would have to be charged while also generating power.

A consultant hired to look at this question came back to him and said they would need 4,250 windmills.

According to the National Renewable Energy Labratory, there are 172 windfarms across the country that are effective and the average amount of land for a windmill is two-tenths of a square-mile plus all the roads, many miles of transmission wires and taking an area’s topography into account.

The amount of land required for 4,250 windmills is 850 square miles and that would be equal to just one power plant in West Virginia, he said. The area is 1.5 times the size of Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., McKinley said.

“That is land you can’t do anything on,” McKinley said. “You can’t have a school on it or manufacturing or agriculture on because it is under a windmill.

“Are we going to give up that much land (just in West Virginia)?”

Such land would have to be acquired in the next few years to be able to meet the 2035 goal for energy replacement. Emminent domain and other measures would set up lengthy court battles, he said.

McKinley wants people and business to work on carbon capture where power plants here can continue without having to find space for the windmills that will be required and still lower or eliminate the emissions.

“It would be just as good for the environment with zero emmissions,” McKinley said.

He didn’t see the benefits of going to a wind or solar energy production model when China and India are continuing with fossil fuel generation, which would still make up a large portion of air pollution worldwide. Costs would be incurred putting the needed infrastructure in without much long-term benefit as utility bills will have to go up, McKinley said.

Although some people have said jobs will be created from alternative energy efforts, McKinley thinks those jobs will be somewhere else and not in West Virginia. The energy jobs here now would be lost, impacting many people and communities that have had fossil-fuel driven economies.

“What happens to us,” McKinley asked. “Are we just sacrificial lambs on this? It makes me nervous about what happens to us as a state.”

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com.


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