Energy issues are heating up again this summer as states get their first look at new emission guidelines the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing — regulations meant to cut carbon pollution from fossil-fueled power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030.
Some mid-Missourians will be ready when those calls go out for alternative energy sources. Here’s a roundup of what’s going on in the local energy sector.
Ever wonder why a windmill popped up on the edge of the University of Missouri campus? Mizzou installed the wind turbine near the corner of Stadium Boulevard and Champions Drive in 2012. The turbine has three blades, each 16 feet long, connected to a generator that produces electricity as wind spins the turbine. Mounted atop a 98-foot steel pole that tilts down for maintenance, the turbine has a maximum power generation rating of 20 kilowatts.
Electricity generated goes into the MU electric power distribution grid for campus use, says Karlan Seville, communications manager for the vice chancellor of operations and interim MU sustainability office coordinator. When generating at design level, the turbine will provide enough electricity to power the maintenance facility adjacent to the turbine.
Ameren Missouri, owner of the Callaway nuclear plant and supplier of natural gas to Columbia and Ashland, has added wind power to its generation portfolio by purchasing energy from Horizon Wind’s Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm in Mitchell County, Iowa. It generates enough electricity to serve 26,000 homes, says Ameren spokesman Kent Martin.
The city of Columbia began purchasing wind power from the Bluegrass Ridge Wind Farm near King City in 2007. In 2013, wind power from Blue Ridge accounted for 1.18 percent of the city’s electric portfolio, according to Columbia Water & Light. The Crystal Lake III Wind Energy Center located in Hancock County, Iowa, also provides wind energy to the city. In 2013, the city sold more than half of its Crystal Lake megawatts to the University of Missouri.
Ameren Missouri broke ground in April on the state’s largest utility-scale solar energy center. Located in St. Charles County, the O’Fallon Renewable Energy Center will generate 5.7 megawatts when completed, says spokesman Kent Martin. The solar farm, with 19,000 solar panels and covering almost 19 acres, is scheduled to go online by end of this year.
“The solar center will provide us with a diversification of energy sources that is critical to our goal of delivering safe, reliable and affordable energy,” Martin says.
“Ameren Missouri is building this solar center now to take advantage of market prices and government incentives that will lower our customers’ costs by 30 percent,” he adds. “In addition, it provides Ameren Missouri and its customers with a carbon-free energy resource, helps us meet the Missouri Renewable Energy Standard and reduces the need to purchase out-of-state Renewable Energy Credits.
Martin says the O’Fallon solar farm is the first of several solar facilities Ameren Missouri plans to build in future years.
In Columbia, the University of Missouri installed a solar photovoltaic system on the roof of the biomass receiving building at the MU power plant in 2012. Rated to produce up to 34 kilowatts of electrical energy, the solar grid consists of 144 photovoltaic modules (panels) that collect the solar energy and convert it to electricity that flows to the MU electric distribution grid.
Another solar project at MU springs from a feasibility study for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that found solar thermal technology to be a viable option in Missouri. Researchers also determined that evacuated tube collectors are most suitable for Columbia’s local climate. A solar thermal project nearing completion will use evacuated heat tube technology to collect heat from the sun to heat water used in the power plant for steam energy.
The city of Columbia has a lease agreement with Nebraska-based Free Power Co Inc. for the electricity generated from photovoltaic modules at the COLT Railroad’s Transload Facility. In 2013, the Free Power solar projects — rated at 0.33 megawatts — produced 424.29 megawatt hours, which is 0.04 percent of Columbia’s electric portfolio.
In 2012, 3M Corp. began manufacturing 3M Ultra Barrier solar film in its Columbia plant. The lightweight, flexible thin film replaces glass on high-efficiency, flexible photovoltaic modules of solar panels. 3M has greatly expanded its manufacturing capabilities in its renewable energy division to supply key products for commercial scale production.
Columbia generates electricity from methane gas produced by decaying waste in the city landfill. In 2013, the landfill gas plant produced 13,326 megawatt hours of energy, or 1.12 percent of the city’s energy portfolio. As gas production increases, Columbia Water & Light estimates electric production could grow to more than 2 percent of its energy portfolio.
In Maryland Heights, Ameren Missouri operates one of the largest landfill trash-to-energy facilities in the United States. The center generates enough energy for 10,000 average-sized homes annually, spokesman Kent Martin says. State-of-the-art turbine technology generates approximately 15 megawatts of renewable electricity by burning methane.
The emerging biomass renewable energy industry offers a way to generate power from cellulosic material such as grasses, wood, corn stover, wheat stubble and other fuels. In 2011, MFA Oil Co. partnered with Aloterra Energy LLC, a solid biofuels producer in Ohio, to form MFA Oil Biomass LLC and expand its role in the renewable energy market. The farmer-owned cooperative secured $14.6 million from the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program to pay farmers to grow the perennial grass Miscanthus giganteus in mid-Missouri, southwest Missouri and northeast Arkansas.
Construction continues on a $1.8 million expansion of a facility in Aurora to process miscanthus for industrial use, says Jared Wilmes, director of biomass operations for MFA Oil. The company is exploring other uses for the grass, he says, which may prove more valuable in industrial use than in power generation.
“We’re still heading down the renewable energy path,” Wilmes says. “We believe feedstock development will be important as cellulosic advanced biofuels technology develops.”
Next-generation ethanol plants using cellulosic feedstock — plant waste material — have opened in Florida, Mississippi, Iowa and Kansas. MFA Oil is watching the progress of these facilities, Wilmes says, because “if they work, cellulosic ethanol provides greater value for farmers. We’re trying to better serve our farmer members by creating value for them in the market with a revenue stream and stability in energy.”
In Audrain County, startup biomass producer Enginuity Worldwide LLC is setting up in its new home in the Missouri Plant Science Center. Funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Enginuity moved into the 28,000-square-foot Mexico facility in March to manufacture its eCARB biomass fuel and prepare for a test burn with the Columbia power plant this summer.
“We’ll run firing tests for boiler effects and emissions tests,” says Nancy Heimann, president and CEO. “We’ve already done a lot of material-handling tests for compatibility.”
Enginuity’s eCARB fuel comes in a multitude of shapes and sizes — from pellets to briquettes to logs — to accommodate current equipment in power plants. The company claims power producers may add eCARB biomass to their fuel mix without retooling or purchasing new equipment.
“We’ve engineered the fuel to meet the needs of the equipment,” Heimann says.
Besides the test burn in Columbia, Enginuity is negotiating with other power producers in a five-state region, Heimann says. “It’s not unexpected that we will be conducting multiple tests in the fall,” she says. “After that, we’ll be looking to take the next step with long-term agreements to manufacture and deliver the fuel.”
The University of Missouri has burned biomass in its power plant since 2006, mixing different wood chips, miscanthus and corn stover with coal. In 2013, a 100 percent biomass boiler went online, consuming more than 100,000 tons annually of waste wood biomass from various sources in Missouri.
The university’s supply contract with Foster Brothers Wood Products of Auxvasse sets a precedent for sustainable biomass procurement, says spokeswoman Karlan Seville. Wood waste from manufacturing comprises up to 90 percent of the biomass boiler fuel; the remaining 10 percent, Seville says, is harvested from managed forests in accordance with the Missouri Woody Biomass Harvesting Best Management Practices Manual.