Opinion

Power and light

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

“Small town America. This is so much fun!” That was my daughter Nancy commenting on the Light Parade in McCook Saturday evening. She lives in Omaha and had not seen anything like it in her town.

Oh yes, the turnout was wonderful, my guess some 25 or so entries. Even though it was a tad cold the sidewalks down Norris were lined with people. Fire and rescue vehicles all adorned with lights. One large motor home well decorated. A large pontoon boat with a large lighted reindeer pulling in the back of a pickup truck, lights everywhere and pulling Santa on a tube behind just like they do in the summertime lakes. Many clever designs whatever the imagination could conjure up. Even a young lady on her horse, no lights but it had a big bow on its tail. We loved the huge white snowman. Many other entries all well done with lights reflecting the coming of Christmas. People walking and throwing candy to the young uns. Even Grannie and your columnist brought up the rear in our nearly 100-year-old Model T Ford draped with lights, a wreath and decorative bows. Just fun for all!

Earlier there was singing in the band shell at Norris Park. Hot chocolate and cookies for the kids plus rides in a nice white carriage pulled with a horse draped with white lights. Mollie from the Chamber really put together a great event to show off the newly well-lighted Norris Avenue “on the bricks”. Small-town America in action and aren’t you glad that you chose to live here?

I’ve been cogitating a bit about the proposal to build a large solar power-producing installation near McCook. I’ve not decided whether to be for or against the project but still have opinions. It is interesting to me that a wildlife-proof fence needs to be built to keep critters and people out but may be good nesting spots for our pheasant population.

Sorry that I was unable to attend the presentation of the project last week but had an unexpected higher calling to tend to the health of my beloved Grannie Annie. She is doing well now.

To me, solar farms are an eyesore with their miles and miles of ugly black panels marring the landscape. Yes, they are quiet and not nearly as obtrusive as are the wind turbine generators. Still, both are unreliable sources of power as the turbines don’t produce when the wind doesn’t blow or blows too hard. Then too the solar arrays go offline when the sun goes down.

Still, if either of those two alternate sources of power can produce electricity at less cost per kilowatt than our reliable nearby Gerald Gentleman coal-fired plant I would say bring them on. Gerald Gentleman is flexible and can balance the load when those other sources come or on or offline. Sadly the majority of the directors of Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) voted to close Gerald Gentleman down but I can’t see that happening in the foreseeable future. Thankfully the director, Bill Hoyt, representing our district voted NO on that closure resolution but then sadly he didn’t get reelected.

NPPD is rather unique in as, I understand, it is the only publicly owned power district in this nation. My understanding is that most power districts are privately or corporately owned which means that they have to operate at a profit for the stockholders whereas our NPPD only has to pay the bills and hence can operate at cheaper rates than our neighbors.

For you who pay bills, you will notice that as residents of McCook we are billed by NPPD itself and those outside our city limits are served, and billed, by either McCook Public Power (MPPD) or Southwest Public Power (SWPPD). MPPD’s headquarters is located along Highway 83 on the western edge of our city. SWPPD is headquartered in Palisade but gerrymanders close by. The problem (again as I see it) is that back when the districts were divided up NPPD skimmed off the towns and small cities as good customers and then carved the more rural areas into the smaller local power districts. The advantage for NPPD is that cities carry pretty much the same load year around. Rural districts have power peaks in the summer due to the high loads from irrigation which is vital to our area. Rates are based on the highest load that a district has, summer irrigation, and that rate is used year around. That is the reason that the oil-fired “peaking generator” is located along the highway a little farther north of MPPD’s headquarters and why you rarely see the column of black exhaust coming from it in winter but just on the hottest days of summer when our electrical load is the greatest. That peaking generator is a bit more expensive than the electricity from Gerald Gentleman, but it helps reduce the maximum peak load and thus cheapens our rate the rest of the year.

So the new solar array is planned to provide cheaper electricity to the NPPD network, hopefully to MPPD to help reduce the load that comes from the power network. It will be privately owned so will have a profit margin built in but power from the sun, the fuel, costs nothing so hopefully, it will cheapen the rate that we pay for power year around. Hopefully, it will be a good deal for this area.

Again I have concerns for the fact that those solar units are probably all manufactured in Communist China where most of the exotic materials involved being mined. China has stated its intention to take over the leadership of the world to replace the role played by our beloved United States since WWII. I don’t think that we should be giving them a market to help pursue that goal.

That is how I see it.

Dick Trail

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