Anyone who lives near Edwardsport in Knox County has likely watched expectantly as a huge power plant project has unfolded. What was supposed to meet a specific timeline has dragged on and on. Now, however, Duke Energy officials report in radio interviews that the project could be done next year. It will be way over budget, but they insist costs won't be passed on to taxpayers.
The project is significant for several reasons. First, the Environmental Protection Agency is poised to clamp down on emissions from utilities burning coal. Since coal is such an abundant resource in Indiana, if plants have to shift to another source to generate electricity, such as natural gas, experts say it will hurt Indiana's economy. If current production and use of coal continued, there is about a 300-year supply of coal in the state.
The coal gasification process that the new plant uses to produce electricity is cleaner, and should meet all of EPA's regulations. The problem is that it's complicated and expensive to build and install this type of technology. It's also much more expensive than technology used to build many existing coal-fired plants. Whether or not building more plants like the one at Edwardsport would be cost effective is up for debate.
The project also ate up a large amount of farmland. Because the utility could have used eminent domain to gain access to the land they need, landowners settled rather than going to court. That doesn't mean they were pleased about moving or offers they received.
One of the families affected was Don Villwock and family. Villwock is president of Indiana Farm Bureau. He has since relocated his operation about five miles north. However, he built a grain handling setup in the shadows of the plant which includes land that once belonged to both his father, the late Carl Villwock, and himself.