Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Coal: Notes from Northwest New Mexico

The Seahawks have given us Washingtonians a subject to have been obsessed about besides coal. When I first saw this view it reminded me of some mangled letters one sees when commenting on blogs to prove your not a robot.

Surface coal mine southeast of Gallop, New Mexico 

The Powder River (geologic basin) is not the only coal mine area in the west. Northwest New Mexico has extensive surface coal mines. Numerous active mines are located in this area and have been as long as I have been doing geology work.

If you look closely, one can see the rail line that leads from the mine. The mine is the Lee Ranch Mine owned by Peabody Coal. Most if not all the coal from this mine as well as a number of others in the region supply coal to numerous coal fired electric power plants that feed electrons into the electric grid of the southwest U.S. By way of example, the Escalante power plant outside of Pert, NM is located about 35 miles from this mine and has a long term contract for the Lee Ranch coal and supplies electric power to group of public utilities extending from Arizona to Nebraska.

It will take a long time to for this region to transition from coal as there multiple coal power plants and multiple mines as well as extensive electric transmission lines. That said, the electric transmission lines provide a ready source for transmitting wind and solar energy from this region.

Coal power generation in this region has not been without controversy. This was a region with remarkably clear air prior to the multiple power plant projects in the region and there has been loss of air clarity compared to pre coal days.    

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