By Leslie Agron and Pat Fain
Anyone a Gilbert and Sullivan fan?
“When I was a lad I served a term / As office boy to an attorney’s firm. / I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor, / And I polished up the handle of the big front door.” (HMS Pinafore)
So, how does this go in Oak Ridge? Perhaps: Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility will revolutionize the choice of materials used in manufacturing. Major manufactures, such as auto companies, will be falling over themselves soon to locate here, so as to capitalize on the technical information to be transferred from ORNL (possibly, but it might be a few years out yet). They will all want sites in Horizon Center, next to the ORNL demonstration facility, to be closest to the technology (maybe, but remember that Nissan found a Middle Tennessee location adequate for transfer of battery technology they consider vital to their future).
Carbon fiber manufacturing is a high energy-utilizing process. ORNL’s demonstration facility could take most of the 10-megawatt energy capacity at Horizon Center (true, but Horizon Center was designed as a commercial park, not as an industrial park). So we need a large project to bring 20 megawatts of additional electrical capacity into Horizon Center right away to meet this pressing need (hmm…has there been someone knocking at our doors lately that they have not been telling us about? What we seem to need right now is an incremental project to put in a lesser amount of power, especially at peak load times, so that the one or two parcels we might sell soon at Horizon Center will have adequate power available—else they are correct that nothing might sell).
For this, we will now need to spend $357,000 to $2 million for additional high-power lines (or perhaps, some now and some more later, if we do not need all of that capacity right away). As in the past, we will be getting said power from Tennessee Valley Authority.
And we really don’t have any other option (unless, say, we took a more incremental approach for this cash-crunched city along with a different view of energy and enhanced Horizon Center’s energy capacity without running more lines out to TVA. But how, you say? Wasn’t a 170-kilowatt solar facility at Heritage Center recently built?…and when did power capacity for industry become the city’s expense?).
But 170 kilowatts is a pittance. We need a lot of power—and the sun doesn’t shine at night (that 170Kw site is on just one acre: you could site a one-megawatt facility on six acres, or a two-megawatt facility on 12 acres. The statement that more power capacity is needed at Horizon Center is referring to times of peak load. Let’s guess, would the peak loads at Horizon Center be during the day when the sun is shining)?
But that would tie up capital—and valuable land needed for industrial development. (Wait, wait! Wasn’t the land at Heritage Center for solar panels purchased and don’t they pay property taxes? Weren’t the solar panels put in with investor capital? Isn’t there also grant money going into solar facilities these days? The solar panels themselves could be located on rooftops, canopies over parking lots, and on marginal land such as steep hillsides that are unsuitable for industrial buildings. The next tenants at Horizon Center could be expected to provide similar rooftop and other solar sites to roll this spare one- to two-megawatt capacity forward for future tenants. What could possibly be better than an enhancement to Horizon Center’s power capability that uses little or none of our money and takes up none of the building sites? But wait, it gets better: putting in power lines is speculative; you only see a payback if and when more tenants move into Horizon Center. On the other hand, if solar power is installed at existing facilities, the improvements begin payback right away with power which can be used right there.)
Isn’t comic light-opera wonderful? Next up on the karaoke machine: the classic “Nuclear Energy Will Make Electricity so Cheap We Won’t Need to Meter It” followed by the timeless “Fusion Energy is 50 Years Away.”
Leslie Agron and Pat Fain are Oak Ridge residents.