Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Baseball, Reliable Power, and Vermont Yankee: Richard Trudell Guest Post

Richard Trudell, Civil Engineer
Good evening, my name is Dick Trudell, I live in Grand Isle. I’m a civil engineer with professional licenses in Vermont and Massachusetts.  I founded Trudell Consulting Engineers in Williston, employing upwards of 15 people and am now retired.

Over a career spanning 41 years, I’ve learned not to take on projects you don’t have the ability or technical capacity to complete.  Being a native Vermonter, I also feel that I have a certain amount of common sense.  Why do these two things compel me to drive 360 miles round trip to spend a couple of minutes testifying to this board?

I’ll give you an analogy.

Vermont Yankee has proved to be dependable source of baseload power for Vermont with approximately half of its 620 MW capacity serving the homes and businesses of Vermont, with over an 80% capacity factor.  Now if you had someone on your team batting 0.800, it is unlikely you would kick them off the team – that’s just plain common sense.  Some Vermonters still seem to think that with enough conservation, plus solar and wind power, we can replace Vermont Yankee’s 620 baseload megawatts with a couple of rookies that that are batting at best 0.300, require state subsidies before they will even go to the locker room to suit up, and their salaries cost more that the dependable pro you have had for years.  Then you find out they can only play for a couple of years before they need surgery or knee replacements.  You have got to be kidding me.

You know that Vermont Yankee makes on-demand power, but solar and wind are “intermittent.”  That is why they bat only 0.300.  With our current technological abilities, too many 0.300 players will give you a bad season, and too high a proportion of intermittent power will challenge, and could eventually crash the transmission grid.

The State of Vermont’s plan acknowledges this shortcoming, but its solution – building biomass and natural gas plants and buying lots of out of state nuclear, coal and especially natural gas power – has its own permitting, environmental, and cost problems, that to me exceed the cost of maintaining and improving Vermont Yankee, and, if I may add, eventually replacing the existing boiling water reactor plant with a state of the art breeder reactor plant at the same site, hence reducing or eliminating the problem of spent fuel storage.

In my opinion, we can build renewables gradually and sensibly only if we keep existing baseload sources, especially those like Vermont Yankee, which are emissions free, reliable, and provide outstanding economic benefits. And those renewable resources have to be cost effective as well, operating without subsidies.  Until some engineer, more clever than me, finds a way to, in effect, turn intermittent power into baseload, this seems like the prudent way to go.

Vermonters are right to want clean air.  We are right to want energy independence.  We are right to want to keep what is left of our manufacturing base.  For all of these reasons, we are right to ask you to keep Vermont Yankee operating.

Thank you

Richard Trudell


This is the seventh in a series of posts which share statements made in favor of Vermont Yankee at the Public Service Board hearing on November 7, 2012.

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