Bonanza Power Plant highlights the advantages of coal burning |

Bonanza Power Plant highlights the advantages of coal burning

My Side
Dooley P. Wheeler Jr.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Dooley P. Wheeler Jr.

One of the newest, largest and cleanest coal power plants is the Bonanza Power Plant, 30 miles south of Vernal, Utah. The Deserado Coal Mine that serves the plant is 35 miles east, north of the White River and northeast of Rangely. Both are owned and operated by Deseret Generating and Transmitting of Salt Lake City. A privately owned railway delivers the coal to the plant.

The Colorado coal mine employs 140 people, the railway employs 20 people and the plant employs 100 people. An additional 20 people maintain the transmission poles that leave the plant and hook up to the Western states’ electrical grid. It’s one of five grids that serve the United States and some of Canada.

The average salary of $70,000 per year per employee translates into $7 million pumped into the community each year for housing, food, clothing, vehicles, medical expenses, etc. In addition, the mine and plant operational expenses contribute about $20 million.

The Bonanza Plant burns 5,000 tons of coal (50 railroad cars) every 24 hours. The energy created by the coal produces 500 constant megawatts of electricity, which the plant makes available 24 hours of every day. The plant itself uses 27 megawatts and the remaining 473 megawatts is transmitted to the grid.

Few people realize that a base load of energy has to be provided to the grid in order to avoid brownouts and blackouts. Wind and solar power are dependent on the wind and blue skies. The energy sources that can maintain a constant base load are coal, nuclear, natural gas and hydro power.

To make this point clear, imagine living in Mumbai, India, with its 16 million people, the fourth largest city in the world. That city experiences at least one or two brownouts or blackouts daily because the city is dependent on unreliable wind power, thus interrupting service to computers, stoplights, elevators, televisions, etc.

Coal plants still provide 45 percent of the power in the United States. Coal power is much less expensive than hydro, nuclear, solar or wind power sources, and coal deposits in the U.S. are huge. As cited by “America’s Power” on Sept. 18, the country’s “recoverable coal reserves represent one quarter of the world’s coal supply,” which “would last nearly 250 years.” So there is the mystery of why this source of energy is so maligned.

Now it is about “clean coal.”

A plant like the Bonanza Plant in Utah has used science and engineering technology to reduce emissions to a barely noticeable white steam. The process to reduce emissions involves scrubbers to remove the sulfur, water to create sulfuric acid and then limestone to make gypsum, a product used to make wallboard and cement filler.

The Bonanza Plant produces 500 megawatts or 5 million watts, compared to an average power plant that produces 300 megawatts. The amount of energy produced by the Bonanza Power Plant maintains 450,000 to 500,000 households.

Coal is plentiful. The new process is “clean.” It is less expensive than nuclear, hydro, solar or wind.

And yet no new plants are being planned or built. Why?

The controls on production in the U.S. are extreme compared to any other nation in the world, yet the U.S. is bearing the brunt of the blame for global pollution.

This article should increase our appreciation of the U.S. and its similar minded present and future citizens.

Dooley P. Wheeler Jr., 98, is a geologist residing at the Rifle Housing Authority retirement community. He co-authored a U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin on strategic minerals with F.G. Wells and H.E. Hawks in preparation for World War II against the Nazis.

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