Hybrid solar-coal power plant opens

A first-ever is now producing electricity on the other side of the San Juan Mountains. Xcel Energy has opened its Cameo hybrid solar-coal power plant near Grand Junction. The plant is an attempt to increase power plant efficiency and limit emissions in an affordable manner.

Xcel and Abengoa Solar developed the concentrated solar technology at Cameo, which enabled the aging coal-fired plant to add a renewable element. Parabolic mirrors were installed on 6.4 acres, and they now redirect the sun’s rays to a central unit, where fluid is heated to produce steam and generate electricity.

Cameo, among the smallest of Xcel’s power plants in Colorado, generates just 77 megawatts of electricity by burning coal, and the new solar unit is adding just 1 megawatt. However, the installation is also a first step for the power supplier, which feeds most of Colorado’s urban areas. Xcel has proposed to add 280 megawatts of concentrated solar and other cutting-edge technology to its portfolio, along with 700 megawatts of energy from wind and photovoltaic sources. The company currently produces 54 percent of its electricity by burning coal.

Kent Larson, vice-president of Xcel, said that thee hybridization of Cameo could be ground breaking for the company and utilities across the country. The retrofit can be added to nearly any coal-fired power plant. If more plants pick up on the innovation, it could put a major dent in greenhouse gases. “If this project produces the successful results we expect, this type of solar thermal integration will help move the use of solar energy one step closer to being a potential technology for improving the environmental performance of coal-fired power plants,” he said.

Santiage Seage, CEO of Abengoa Solar, added that the solar-coal combination offers a unique, affordable approach to major renewable generation. “We believe that the solar approach being implemented at Cameo will provide a cost-effective way of delivering solar energy,” he said.

However, Cameo’s continued reliance of coal is raising hackles. Blogging on EnergyWise, Dave Levitan called the hybrid little more than an “excuse to pollute.” He then added, “An interesting idea, to be sure, but the scale of the coal issue makes this seem like little more than lipstick on a pig. A very, very dirty pig.”

Andy Corra sets downriver record

A Durango boater has paddled into the record books. After 24 hours and 273.5 miles on Canada’s Yukon River, Andy Corra unofficially set the world record for most miles paddled in a single day. The record attempt still awaits verification.

Corra, the owner of 4 Corners Riversports, launched his downriver kayak in the Yukon Territories at noon on June 27 as the river was flowing 69,000 cfs. Corra chose the Yukon River for a variety of reasons.

“It has a big flow, meaning good current speeds, with no rapids,” he told theFairbanks Daily News-Miner, while recovering in Alaska. “It has the possibility of motor support along the way. It has a history of the record being established there, and it has 24 hours of daylight. There are likely better rivers in the world to do such a paddle, but logistically, the Yukon has many of the obstacles and unknowns already figured out.”

The 49-year-old noted that he has been training for the attempt for several years and is pleased with the accomplishment. “It feels good,” he told the paper. “Gratifying. I’ve been focused on this for a couple years now. In a perfect scenario, I would have had 150,000 cfs and gone over 300 miles.”

The previous record of 261 miles was set by Ian Adamson.

Conservation System marks 10 years

A 10-year celebration offered up a sobering reminder this week at the Canyons of the Ancients. The National Landscape Conservation System marked its 10th year by highlighting growing threats to the Canyons of the Ancients and other NLCS units.

Conservation groups, officials and members of the public

gathered at the Anasazi Heritage Center on Tues., July 12. At the top of the agenda were threats from vandalism, looting and irresponsible recreation. In the Canyons and other NLCS units, rock art has been used for target practice or scratched out; boulders containing petroglyphs have simply vanished; dwellings have been looted for artifacts; and signs have been removed or vandalized.

The Conservation Lands Foundation expressed hope that the 10th anniversary would raise awareness of the National Conservation Lands, especially for places like the Canyons which contains the nation’s highest density of archaeological sites. Canyons of the Ancients has seen its share of vandalism and looting over the years and still faces the formidable task of identifying and inventorying three-quarters of the upwards of 30,000 archaeological sites believed to exist on its 171,000 acres.

Riddle continues to push election suit

Joelle Riddle may have elected to stay off the local ballot, but the La Plata County Commissioner is still fighting for rights for independent candidates. Riddle continues to be party to Curry v. Buescher, an expedited legal appeal that seeks relief from deadlines imposed on independent candidates. Colorado Rep. Kathleen Curry is the plaintiff in the case.

Both Riddle and Curry were Democrats who disaffiliated to become independents and attempted to run for public office. However, Colorado imposes a17-month waiting period for such candidates, and the Curry suit challenges the constitutionality of this requirement.  

“It is time that the court give voice to independent voters and candidates who are asking for something different, outside of the partisan boundaries that often hold hostage the very issues and concerns that matter to us the most,” said Riddle. “We ask for the opportunity to offer more choice and a truer democracy to the people of Colorado.”

– Will Sands