Blackstone Energy Group: From Coal To Gas - SMSC New Media Sites
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – The Blackstone Group, through its energy-offering company, Sithe Global Power, will invest $1.4 billion to build a 700 megawatt natural gas-fired electrical generation plant combined with a 100 megawatt solar-powered plant near the Toquop Indian Reservation in Nevada.
In a joint announcement Monday, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck, and Blackstone President and Chief Operating Officer Tony James said Sithe has abandoned the idea of building a 750-megawatt supercritical pulverized coal plant at the Toquop site. Instead, it has returned to its original plan to build a natural gas plant.
Sithe is co-developer with Dine Power Authority of a 1,500 megawatt coal plant known as the Desert Rock Energy Project, proposed on the Navajo Nation near Farmington. Desert Rock would consist of two 750-megawatt supercritical pulverized coal-burning units.
Despite a push by grassroots groups on the Navajo Nation to convince Blackstone that its money would be better invested in a renewable energy project at the Desert Rock site, Dirk Straussfeld, Sithe executive vice president, said Monday that plans are for Desert Rock to proceed as a coal-fired plant.
“At the moment we're not changing anything,” he said.
The Toquop plant originally was proposed in 2003 as an 1,100 megawatt natural gas plant, but due to rising prices of natural gas, it was re-proposed as a coal plant. Sithe had hoped to begin construction in 2007 and have it on-line by 2011, but as with Desert Rock, the company encountered problems.
In a conference call with media, Reid said his top priority for Nevada is creating jobs and diversifying the economy. “Clean air is really a wonderful way to accomplish both these goals. Natural gas is the bridge.”
Blackstone's James said the Toquop Project will be “one of the cleanest and most environmental friendly ways to produce power that Nevada needs to grow and to upgrade its aging generation base.” About 1,000 jobs will be created during the three years of construction.
“We hope that it will provide both short-term boosts to the economy by putting people back to work and a longer-term boost to the economy by providing cheap, clean, effective power to the state of Nevada,” he said.
Reid added that he and Mayor Holecheck worked together to make sure they have jobs in Mesquite that will be good for the community. “A coal plant would have hurt Mesquite; this will help Mesquite,” he said.
Blackstone expects the solar portion of the project to come on-line first and be fully operational by 2012. Construction of the gas plant is anticipated to begin in 2011, with the plant in commercial operation by 2015.
“In addition to being far more efficient in terms of its CO2 (carbon dioxide) footprint, the new plant uses 60 to 70 percent less water than the original plan, which is obviously of critical importance to a state like Nevada,” Jame said.
Holecheck commended Sithe and Blackstone officials for their switch to natural gas and their willingness to compromise.
“I know this must have been a costly consideration, but I know that Sen. Reid and I can probably say we really feel that the reward of looking to the future wellness of our people and our environment carries larger benefits for all,” she said.
With Nevada's population surpassing 2 million people and with millions of visitors each year, the state's electricity demand is expected to grow by at least 40 percent over the next decade, she added. “So having Sithe Global return to its original intent as to natural gas, as Sen. Reid said, it addresses not only this electricity demand but the focus now is Nevada's need for jobs. So we welcome this.”
The difference in the two plants is significant, Reid said, adding that the fossil fuel in coal is about 60 percent more polluting than natural gas. While coal for the plant would have been brought in by rail, there is a natural gas pipeline near the site of the gas plant. “Just the transportation alone is a huge savings,” Reid said.
The company's original thought was that coal probably would be cheaper, James added, but with Reid's encouragement, they went back to the drawing board and came up with a plan that is “competitive in cost and much, much more friendly to the environment and water usage.”
The company is in discussions with utilities on purchasing power from the project. A plan has been submitted to the Bureau of Land management for the gas plant and an amended application will be submitted for the solar project.
SHAKOPEE MDEWAKANTON UNVEILS NEW MEDIA SITES
by Tessa Lehto
Prior Lake, MN – In recent weeks, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has joined the more than 3,000,000 active pages on Facebook by introducing several social media sites. As of February 2010, more than 400,000,000 users were signed up on Facebook, using 65 different languages in more than 170 countries.
Facebook pages for Dakotah! Sport and Fitness, Playworks, The Meadows at Mystic Lake, and the Shakopee Dakota Convenience Stores all have gone live with photos and a live feed containing up to the minute news, promotions, and updates. A Wacipi Facebook page is planned for the coming months.
“We’re excited to embrace this social media networking to bring our enterprises and guests together,” said SMSC Tribal Administrator Bill Rudnicki. “It’s a constantly evolving medium and we want to keep up as much as possible.”
The SMSC began posting YouTube videos in the fall of 2009 with footage from a special “Honoring Our Veterans” Ceremony at the Mall of America. That was quickly followed by the Wacipi 2009, the dedication of the Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza at the University of Minnesota TCF Bank Stadium, the assembly of the wind turbine, the “Dakotah! Sport and Fitness Ice Skating Exhibition,” and a “Building History 2009” of the SMSC. Altogether the SMSC has posted 17 different YouTube videos.
On the SMSC Facebook pages, fans can sign up for exclusive offers and invitations, view hours, photos, basic information, and holiday closures. Polls are conducted, videos posted, and updated information about specials provided.
Dakotah!’s site was the first introduced at the beginning of the new year. “We found the Facebook Fan Page to be helpful during icy weather conditions when we needed to cancel a few classes,” said DSF Director Tad Dunsworth. “We have also had several interesting discussions started by our members using the site.”
Playworks Director Amy Donaldson is using the site to communicate with families of Playworks children. “We put things like fun snack ideas for kids to create at home with their families,” she said. Daily lunch specials from P.W.’s Grill are also posted as well as a YouTube birthday party video.
The Shakopee Dakota Convenience Stores used their fan page to announce the arrival of new DVD kiosks with New Releases and longtime favorites on March 11, 2010. “We also post statistics and trivia along with questions for our customers,” said Retail Director Michelle Watson.
The newest site, The Meadows at Mystic Lake, was introduced Friday, March 12, 2010. Complete with a blog from Golf Pro Al Pehrson, The Meadows site is expected to have a lot of interactivity. “It is integrated with Twitter so if we are having a slow afternoon, for example, we can put out a news feed offering a special promotion for the afternoon and bring in business while getting our golfers out on the course more often,” said SMSC Director of Golf Greg McKush.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Annual Wacipi (Pow Wow) is the largest one in the Midwest and one of the largest in the country. Its Facebook Fan Page will be used to give updates on drum groups, events at the Wacipi, and could be used in a weather emergency as occurred in recent years when the location was changed due to inclement weather.
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