The power plant closures are coming; the power plant closures are coming; the power plant closures are coming; and while no one is riding through town to announce the news, the results to America could be nearly as dire as the coming of the Redcoats. Despite millions already spent on modifications, fully functional coal-fueled power plants are being shut down—not because they are not needed but due to ideology. In fact, the Energy Information Administration predicts that electricity demand will continue to grow 0.9 percent per year until 2040 as we plug in to electricity that is becoming increasingly expensive.
One such example is the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico’s Four Corners area that provides about 60 percent of PNM’s (New Mexico’s primary electricity provider) total electric generation in the state. The coal-fueled plant has four generating units—two of which are being shut down due to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. The Albuquerque Journal reports that there will be “rate hikes to allow PNM to recover costs associated with the changes at San Juan.”
The San Juan Generating Station is scheduled for closure in 2017, but the process of replacing the 340 megawatts that will be lost has already started. PNM wants to fill the need with a new natural-gas plant at the same site and by bringing in more nuclear power from the Palo Verde Generating Station in Arizona, in which PNM is already part owner. Environmentalists oppose PNM’s plan and are pushing for more renewables such as wind and solar—which will “drive costs way up.”
But the problem with renewables isn’t just the cost or the intermittency. The problem is that environmentalists also oppose what it takes to get the natural resources needed to build, for example, a wind turbine.
The Northwest Mining Association, lists the metals and minerals needed to build one 3 megawatt wind turbine, which includes: 335 tons of steel and 4.7 tons of copper. (To replace the 340 megawatts of electricity generated at San Juan with wind would take 113 three-megawatt wind turbines—or 37,855 tons of steel and 1598 tons of copper.) Most people don’t think about where the metals and minerals come from or what it takes to recover or shape them.