Letter: Pie-in-the-sky idea that could deliver jobs, energy security
OK — wow. Things are moving quick on the energy transition front. My takeaway from the recent article speculating on repurposing our power plant was that we are already thinking of installing bungie jumps off smoke stacks.
Before all time is lost and all stakeholders have had their say this week, I’d like to present an alternative option not only to Xcel Energy but the town of Hayden and anyone worried about the future of our energy reliability here in Routt County.
Energy Vault is a technology that I believe can a) utilize local materials, b) keep people employed and c) meet energy demands for our homes and businesses without burning coal. Energy Vault is a Swiss company with a mission to help transition economies just like ours away from coal and fossil fuels by focusing on energy storage.
Their energy storage technology is working already in Europe. It is capable of powering thousands of homes and businesses. It is durable and can last up to a century unlike utility scale lithium ion storage, which needs to be replaced after cell degradation every 10 to 20 years. When excess electricity is on the grid, large bricks store kinetic energy high in the sky that are later released to the ground powering turbines delivering electricity to, say, some snow guns. This is similar to pumped hydro, but instead of water, which in itself is seeing unprecedented supply concerns, it uses bricks made of coal ash.
It just so happens that nearly 150 acres of ash could be utilized in Hayden. This landfill is destined to stagnate and is a liability for Xcel Energy. Management plans have been released, but they only last through 2075.
The plan details, “Filling ruts and gullies in eroded side slope areas and regrading to match design condition.” Clearly the goal here is to mitigate coal ash from lurching into the water table and eventually into the Yampa River, which is less than 2 miles away. I wonder how reasonable that may pan out in practice, especially 200 years from now.
Instead of digging ruts in a landfill or deploying functional but fleeting utility scale lithium ion storage facilities, we should encourage Xcel to create local construction jobs that direct waste away from our waterways and into large towers that can literally power this valley for hundreds of years.
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