For years I have seen Bob Mulch letters printed in newspapers bad-mouthing decisions Sunflower and Wheatland management have made. Mostly he has criticized construction of new generating plants and use of underground water supplies. Apparently he would like a return to the 1930s when we had very little electric service and no growth in rural areas. If people were lucky, some small farms might have had a 32-volt wind-charger or small light plant, neither very reliable. There was no electric service large enough to support commercial feedlots, packing plants, ethanol plants or other large industry we have seen develop.
Shortly following World War II, the Roosevelt administration saw the light and formed the rural electrification administration (REA), which made low-cost loans available to rural people and began to electrify rural America. Electric cooperatives were formed, generation plants and lines were built and in a short time more than 90 percent of rural areas were served with good, reliable electric service. This resulted in tremendous expansion of the rural economy.
Bob's letters seem to indicate we should build large wind-chargers, and if we build enough we would not need to construct any base-load generating plants again.
We could never build enough wind-generation to have a safe, reliable power supply. I agree that wind generation can provide energy when wind blows but it will never provide reliable base-load capacity. The more wind generation installed, the more base-load capacity required to back it up. If the capacity is not built in this area, it must be purchased from elsewhere and delivered over large transmission lines at a very high cost.
Now let's talk about water use. I agree with Bob that our water must be used efficiently. The water rights purchased by Wheatland, Sunflower and Tri-State and now used for agriculture — primarily center-pivot irrigation — allow two acre-feet of water per acre per year from each permit. When the new coal plant permit is issued, water rights will be transferred to industrial use with an approximately 40-percent reduction in allowable use per acre per year. That's pretty good savings.
A third criticism is that the plant would be built in Kansas using valuable water and other resources with most of the energy shipped to Colorado and other places. We live in a global economy. Products we raise in wheat, feed grain, cattle, dairy products, etc., are not all used in this area. What is the difference if electric power is produced here then shipped to other areas?
I am in favor of building a second coal-fired plant at Holcomb. Hopefully, the required permits can be approved soon so work can begin while there is still low-cost financing available. The development of western Kansas has been tremendous since WW II and most of the reason has been rural electrification. I would hate to see growth disappear because we could not meet power requirements of people we serve. Bob should realize that no private company has ever been willing to spend the time and effort to do it for us.
LEWIS E. MITCHELL,
Mitchell is former general manager of Wheatland Electric Cooperative Inc.