Letters to the Editor

Coal power can’t compete

Despite what politicians say, politicians are not responsible for the current and future decline in coal.

Technology and cheap natural gas have caused an inevitable decline in coal mining and employment that is not coming back.

Since 1989, few utilities have wanted to build new coal plants. A new technology, combined cycle natural gas, was the way to go. Gas is burned in a turbine that is first cousin of a jet engine, then the exhaust heat creates steam driving a steam turbine. These new technology plants cost less to build and less to operate than a coal plant and create more electricity per BTU of heat. Just turn a valve to get natural gas. Coal requires unloading, moving around and then grinding to a powder to burn. Coal requires expensive to operate pollution controls and leaves a hard to dispose of coal ash behind. Natural gas burns clean without residue.

Early combined cycle plants turned 44 percent of the heat into electricity versus 32 percent to 34 percent for coal. Today, GE, Siemens and Mitsubishi sell units that turn over 61 percent of the heat into electricity.

Coal can simply not compete with the newest natural gas power plants.

Alan Drake