By Rubina Obaid
Due to the environmental regulation, Boardman and many other coal emitting power plants started getting both economic and cultural pressure. Thus, more than 200 power plants got closed in the last two decades.
Mountains of black smoke emitting from a coal energy power plant became one of the major causes of throwing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in Oregon. Boardman Coal Plant was the largest source of climate and air pollution, since the plant produces nearly half of the Portland’s electricity. When the plant runs at its optimum level it burns around five and a half tons of coal a minute. Oregon decided not to further delay the movement to reach climate neutrality goals, therefore according to the schedule, last coal plant operating in the state will be closed by the end of 2020. While, the electricity obtained by the plant will be produced by out-of-state coal. PGE spokesperson Steve Corson said that “There is no expiration date for a plant like Boardman if it is well maintained, yet the company made the unprecedented decision to shut it down.”
Due to the environmental regulation, Boardman and many other coal emitting power plants started getting both economic and cultural pressure. Thus, more than 200 power plants got closed in the last two decades and PGE also announced in 2010 that it would stop burning coal at Boardman by 2020. However, the utility isn’t completely quitting the region rather it has invested in new facilities and considered torrefaction as a final option. It is a thermal process that converts biomass into coal-like material and it has better fuel characteristics as compared to the original biomass. During the process a combustible gas is released which is utilized to provide heat to the process while leaving lesser carbon footprints than coal.
According to Krumenauer, Vice president of U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, torrefaction has benefits beyond the bottom line. It finds use for low-value wood, which in turn supports local timber jobs and can help make rural Oregon safer, he further added that torrefaction can greatly help in reducing wildfire. Whereas, one of the major obstacles in implementing torrefaction is higher transportation cost. As driving the biomass from the dry forest would cost about $300 per load apart from the cost which is going to be incurred for cutting, loading, or chipping the lumber and hence doesn’t worth the efforts.
The closure of the plant also brought a huge toll in terms of human cost as Boardman had 67 fulltime workers. Also, it is going to affect local vendors, contractors, distributors, and some key customers. Therefore, it has been decided that some of the employees will be retired when the plant closes, a few of them will be transferred to the other plants around the state and others may attend Blue Mountain Community College, where PGE is funding a scholarship program. The transition towards renewables is strengthening globally that led to a reduction in overall prices of alternative sources of energy such as solar energy has dropped 89% and the wind power costs have dropped 70% in the last decade. The push towards decarbonized economy brought numerous environmental forces to work proactively to achieve a green future and consequently, 30 more coal projects are scheduled to close down in the next two decades.