Tag Archives: Coal

State congress candidates come to Radford

On Oct. 25, Radford University held its first political forum in the Bondurant Auditorium. The event was hosted and coordinated by RU’s nonpartisan student organization, the Political Science Club. With the help of Dr. Tanya Corbin, the organization’s sponsor, and many other faculty members the forum was a success.

There were more than 300 people in attendance including students, faculty and citizens of the Radford community.

“Even the Mayor of Radford attended,” Corbin said. “I was absolutely beaming with pride- the students did a great job!”

The Political Science Club invited Virginia House of Delegates candidates Joseph Yost and Don Langrehr and State Senate candidates Adam Light and current senator Phillip Puckett. Yost’s campaign manager informed Corbin that they would not be attending the forum 24 hours prior to the event. He also declined a forum invitation in the City of Radford from the League of Women Voters with the same notice.

Collage of candidates: (from left to right) Joseph Yost, Don Langrehr, Adam Light and Phillip Puckett. Photos from Creative Commons.

During the forum, the candidates were asked questions written by students. The candidates received the questions in advance.

Employment proved to be the main concern. With this generation facing one of the most volatile economies in US history, this concern was readily addressed by the candidates.

Langrehr, an RU educational studies professor, stressed the importance of digital technologies to keep college graduates in the area. Light suggested vocational and trade schools as an inexpensive alternative to college. Puckett agreed with Langrehr about needing to bring technology companies to the area.

The environment was also on students’ minds. This subject received vague answers from the candidates. This is a subject that has been debated a lot in Southwest Virginia because coal mining is a major part of its economy. The candidates all agreed on that aspect of the forum.

Other questions received more direct responses from the candidates. When Light was asked whether he was pro-life or pro-choice, his answer was clear: pro-life. The question of whether or not college students have the right to carry a concealed weapon on campus elicited one word from Senator Puckett: no.

Langrehr ended the forum on a lively note. Trying to prove to students and potential voters that he wasn’t a part of the political machine. He stood up, waved his hands and said, “With me, there are no strings attached.”

Despite some hiccups surrounding the absence of Yost, the forum seemed to operate smoothly and was well received by the audience. The Political Science Club was proud to have held a successful political forum at RU. Corbin seemed excited for the future of the group.

“I have been extremely proud of them and I feel honored to be their advisor,” she said.

Biomass fueling Virginia

Photo from Creative Commons.

A few Dominion Virginia Power plants are being reformatted to run on renewable biomass. This conversion will allow the plants to create cleaner, more efficient energy for Virginians.

The three Dominion plants set to be reworked are the Southampton, Altavista and Hopewell plants. Two of these plants, Southampton and Hopewell, have opted to use Enviva wood waste as a means to produce the 50 kw of power expected to be made as a result of the conversion. This is a drop of 13 kw in their current output power.

Though biomass produces less power, it also produces fewer byproducts. With coal-fired plants, companies had to worry about scrubbing toxic components out of smoke stacks. Some of these toxic components, such as sulfur dioxide and mercury, along with other particulates released by coal-fired plants, lower air quality and are a health concern for residents near the plants.

A Dominion power plant in Virginia. Photo from Creative Commons.

Enviva wood chips, expected to be used in the Southampton and Hopewell plants, are a renewable fuel source. Enviva’s biomass wood chips make use of bark and tree limbs from responsibly harvested trees. This is not always the case. Some of this renewable fuel source is created through the byproduct of paper and wood mills. The wood chips from the mills are compacted into pellets, which then burn at very high temperatures, making them ideal to turn power turbines and produce energy for Virginia.

This move to use biomass as a fuel source is part of Dominion’s strategy to comply with the voluntary regulations encouraged by the state of Virginia. The voluntary regulations are aimed at getting 15% of Virginia’s overall power from renewable resources by 2025. This would decrease the amount of pollution and encourage sustainable power for the future.

Biomass being used to power plants has been slow to catch on; while there are several plants across the nation that use this form of power production, the vast majority remain coal powered plants. Biomass-powered plants are a novelty, even among those who source their own power. While this form of renewable energy has taken off slower than wind power or solar power, it is a cheaper alternative to those existing methods. The conversion of a coal-fired plant to a biomass-powered plants is relatively cheap and simple.

Wood biomass. Photo from Creative Commons.

It will be interesting to see if biomass becomes the energy of the future. Every day there seems to be more effort put into renewable fuel sources. As cheaper and more practical sources become more common, they will be the building blocks for all-inclusive renewable energy to be more than just a dream.