DG is not a perfect solution

It was with much interest that I read the article “How big of a ‘player’ will DG become?” by Roger Saillant, CEO of Plug Power (December EL&P). It was refreshing that a proponent of DG was open about the fact that DG is not the silver bullet to America’s energy woes.

What did bother me, however, were two statements that are somewhat off the mark. Specifically, Dr. Saillant said in his article: 1. fuel cells produce “zero emissions”; and, 2. “Utilities have already made extensive use of wind farms and solar installations to supplement power during times of peak demand.”

Regarding item 1, I agree that fuel cells, by themselves, emit only water. The problem is the part of the story conveniently left out where reformulator emissions are concerned. The hydrogen fuel of a fuel cell, for all intents and purposes, comes from fossil fuels. The reformulator that extracts the hydrogen from the fossil fuel produces carbon dioxide. When a fuel cell produces energy from a fossil fuel, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted is, (except for conversion efficiency differences) the same as any other fossil fuel powered electric generator.

Regarding item 2, no responsible utility depends on wind farms to supplement power during times of peak demand. Wind generation is a non-dispatchable resource. If the output from a wind farm happens to be high at the time of a system peak, that is great However, one cannot depend on wind generation being on-line during system peaks, and therefore, sufficient non-wind capacity must be in place to ensure reliable service.
Wally Lang
Vice President, Transmission & Distribution
Minnkota Power Cooperative Inc.

Environment takes back seat to economics

I just finished reading your December commentary and I wanted to let you know that your monthly thoughts often coincide with my current opinions. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one in the power industry who’s concerned about reliability, our consumption of fossil fuels, national energy legislation, the delivery and associated costs of electricity. It’s an industry with a lot of hurdles to overcome and we need to move forward to keep our economy on track as well as our way of life. Working together, I believe it’s possible. I also think it’s a wonderful industry to be in and I look forward to the challenges over the next 25 years of my career.

I was extremely disappointed in the news that Russia will not be signing the Kyoto Protocol. Ironically, in the same newspaper edition there was an article about the decreasing snowfall in Europe and the impact on ski areas. It amazes me that our governments can be so wrapped up in economic forces to ignore the world environment. There’s an article at http://news.mpr.org/features/2003/11/25_ kelleherb_steger/ about fellow Minnesotan Will Steger and his latest arctic journey, which really drives home the point that we must educate ourselves about climate change and the affect our society is having on it.

Keep producing your thought provoking commentaries. I enjoy getting EL&P each month. Let’s hope others do too.
Dan Geiger
United Services Group,
a dept. of Great River Energy

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