Joking that the two events are not related, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and members of the college board of directors toured the State Fair Community College Energy Innovation Center on Tuesday, the day following an Environmental Protection Agency mandate to reduce emissions from fossil-fuel burning power plants by 30 percent by 2030.
“We’ve had this energy tour planned for several months and it just coincidentally coincided with the new EPA standards,” Hartzler said. “My philosophy is that we need an all of the above energy policy for our country. We need to use the resources our country has been blessed with, such as coal and oil and natural gas, but it makes sense to pursue other renewable sources as well and that’s what they’re doing here at State Fair and I wanted to see.”
The new regulations could affect Missouri especially hard as more than 80 percent of the state’s power comes from coal-fired power plants. The White House says the new policy will not cost the state jobs or cause a spike in electricity rates and will in fact spur growth in the renewable energy sector. Opponents of the plan say that coal burning electric plants will have to spend millions to adhere to the plan or convert to other fuel sources.
While she has yet to see the exact numbers contained in the mandate, Hartzler said since 2005 Missouri energy plants have been striving toward cleaner production. How far they still have to go to meet the new standards is unknown, but she is concerned that working Missouri families will feel the pinch.
“I am concerned about the increased electricity cost for the hardworking families of Missouri that it looks like this new regulation will cause,” Hartzler said. “Eighty percent of Missouri’s power comes from coal so when they are required to make changes in their existing plants, that’s going to show up in families’ electricity bills.”
Waste-to-energy plants such as the SFCC Energy Innovation Center and the forthcoming BioStar facility in southern Pettis County are new technologies with limited production capacity, but hold promise as future power sources.
“I think we are going to have to rely for many years on coal and petroleum based power in this country,” Hartzler said. “But, it’s good to at the same time to start shifting and using the materials that are readily available such as the methane coming off this landfill.”
The facility tour was an impressive display of the literal transformation of rags to riches in the form of electricity, so to speak. Members of the SFCC board and instructors for the college’s renewable energy program explained the inner-workings of the plant.
Waste from as far as Kansas City, Boonville and Warsaw is transferred to the WCA Central Missouri Landfill in the 24000 block of Oak Grove Lane. Methane gas, produced from the decomposition of trash in the adjoining landfill, is pumped to the facility from 34 on-site wells.
WCA engineers said risk of fire or explosion is minimized due to stringent safety regulations.
“Through Missouri regulations there are certain items we cannot take. Those include anything flammable, anything hazardous,” said Ethan Shackleford, WCA engineer.
At the facility, the gas is “scrubbed” clean of toxins, heated, then cooled to condense the gas, and then ignited in a 20-cylinder engine that drives turbines and produces electricity. When fully operational, the plant can produce 2.4 megawatts, enough electricity to power approximately 1,000 homes. The electricity is sold to KCP&L. Engineers estimate the gas supply will last 30 years.
In addition to providing electricity, the center is also the training site for the SFCC Renewable Energy Technology with emphasis in BioMass Technology associate degree program. For more information visit sfccmo.edu/renewableenergy.