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Local officials get first-hand information about Grizzly Power

In a meeting of local officials, a Cogentrix official explained as much as he could about water use, visual impacts and steam generation of electricity
A meeting set up to assuage the concerns of local officials surrounding the proposed electrical power plant slated to be located a few miles north of the Crook County line didn't offer much new information.
   Frank Erwin, Vice President for Development for Cogentrix Energy, Inc., the power plant company planning to build the Grizzly Power Facility, presented the company's plans. If approved, the 980 megawatt generation plant will be located in the southern end of Jefferson County, about half a mile east of Highway 26. The meeting between Erwin and city and county officials was to answer questions those officials might have. Once more complete information is available, another similar meeting will be held.
   Since the first mention of the proposed power plant came up, the question of where required water supplies would come from has been high on Crook County Judge Scott Cooper's list of questions. Prineville Reservoir, Cooper pointed out, has the largest supply of unallocated water in the region. Protecting that supply is important to the future of the county, Cooper stresses at every opportunity.
   Water needs for a co-generation power plant are huge. It is projected that the Grizzly plant would require about 4.75 million gallons per day. According to Cogentrix, the consumptive needs of the plant equate to approximately three to four cups of water for every kilowatt of electricity delivered to the customer. For the normal residential user of electricity, this represents approximately six cups of water per household served.
   That information wasn't the kind of answers needed to satisfy everyone's water concerns, however. The question was still, what will be the impact on Crook County if the plant is operational? Irwin explained he is an electrical engineer, and not familiar with the hydrological aspects of electrical generation. However, he was able to reassure Judge Cooper and Mayor Steve Uffelman that, "Prineville would not be impacted in any way, shape or form."
   The aquifer actually flows eastward, down from the Cascade Mountains, he explained, toward this area. That underground flow is channeled by the John Day formation and, according to the experts, is more water than can be imagined. "The water is flowing in the billions of gallons per day, not millions." The plant will have no impacts on the local aquifer, he added.
   Another important thing, Irwin pointed out, is that the water the generation plant uses will be recycled. The entire process involves using water to make steam for use in steam turbines and as a source of cool water to return the steam back to water. First the water is heated by the hot exhaust from the combustion turbine in a heat recovery steam generator, converting the water into steam. Once the steam exits the steam turbine it is condensed back to water. This cycle allows for extensive recycling, the company's informational handouts explain.
   Irwin added that any steam plume escaping from the cooling towers is plain water, any mineral residue is collected in cakes and deposited in a landfill. Parrish Van Wert, executive director of the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, said he is trying to find a commercial use for those cakes of minerals.
   Apparently there is no way to totally recapture all of the water used in the power plant operation. Irwin explained that, depending on the quality of the water, it is possible to recycle it through the system up to 12 times.
   The source of the water would be from several sources, Irwin explained. The company is working with the Oregon Water Resources Department and other state agencies, he said. One source being studied is the approximately 11.2 million gallons per day that is lost to infiltration in the North Unit Irrigation District's main canal.
   Other issues discussed during the meeting included visual and lighting issues and local employment.
   All lighting at the facility will be directed downward, Irwin said assuredly. "These lights will be directional so there will be no glaring illumination. This will not be lit up like an airport," he added. "The nearby natural gas pumping station, on the other hand is much more visible at night than this plant will be."
   Plumes of water vapor, or steam, leaving the cooling towers will not contain anything but water, Irwin said, and will dissipate quickly as it evaporates. The generation plant is, as the company's name infers, a co-generation facility. The site was chosen because of the close proximity to the natural gas pumping station. Electricity will be generated by both steam and natural gas. Irwin said there will be no oil burned, so there will be no odors or solid waste coming from the plant.
   "The only fuel will be natural gas," he explained, "no oil or sulfur. Mitigation of the exhaust is above and beyond nine parts per million. As part of the system, a CO catalyst will clean that to about two parts per million, which is what the permits require."
   Once the facility has acquired all the state and federal permits, construction will take 24 to 30 months. It is expected that between 300 and 400 people will be involved in that part of the project. "We intend to hire locally as much as possible," Irwin assured the city and county officials. "Our contractors always hire locally as much as possible."
   The construction of the facility is pretty much straight forward, he added, "Welders and concrete people, it's not rocket science. The only sophistication will be installation of the monitoring equipment and computers. The plant is run totally by computers."
   Once operational, about 35 people will be employed to run the plant. Again, Irwin said the company tries to hire locally. Only plant managers and people who have run these plants before will be brought in.
   The local community will also benefit from the facility, Irwin said. "Cogentrix gets its people involved with the community. The company supports scholarships and little League."
   Those who have been against having the facility locate here, he explained, do so because they fear the unknown. "They have been invited to go visit a similar plant and have not done so. Parrish (Van Wert) has offered to take a group to Idaho to a similar plant. Hermiston's plant is closer but it is not a co-generation plant. Nobody has taken him up on it."
   In order to better answer the water questions, a future meeting will be scheduled after the final design reports are completed and made available.