Electricity, it’s something many of us take for granted. You flick a switch, and the light comes on. But, how does that power get to you? We’re taking a look at one of the four main sources of power in our area, natural gas.
It’s pretty noisy here at the Liberty Utilities’ Stateline power facility on the far western edge of Joplin. Plant Manager Brian Berkstresser says that noise, is from the process taking place here to generate the electricity that reaches your home. “So, we take a lot of fuel and a lot of air, put that together in a controlled manner and make a fire, and then that goes out over a series of turbine wheels which drives the shaft that it’s attached to which goes back to a generator and that generator makes electricity.”
Berkstresser says there are two types of units at Stateline. Both, produce electricity, both use natural gas to do that, but, how they do it, is just a little different. “We have a combined-cycle and a simple-cycle unit here, the simple-cycle just like I said, blows through, exhausts out the back end at over 1,000 degrees, the combined-cycle does the same process but then takes that waste heat of 1,000 degrees and uses that to heat up water and then steam, and then that energy drives a steam turbine, which also has a generator attached to it.”
The Stateline facility is one of two natural gas plants right here in our area, with the other one located in Riverton. “We are the largest plant on our footprint, even though we’re joint-owned, it’s still 600 megawatts that goes out and that can supply basically the whole city of Joplin and then some.”
That’s 600 million watts generated from this plant alone every hour. It takes 29 people to man this plant, with even fewer on duty at one time, to ensure it runs smoothly. That number is small for a plant this size, thanks in part, to how it’s controlled. “This is a distributed control system, we acronym everything, so we call it a DCS, it has gone through a series of upgrades, the last one in 2012, bigger processors, and we monitor over 3,000 points at all times here with this system, probably have about 10,000 points out in the plant that we’re looking at.”
During the winter storm in February of 2021, demands on the power grid increased dramatically. To help with that demand, Liberty, along with the majority of electric providers in our area and across the Midwest, are part of a special organization. “There’s something called a reserve-sharing group that we’re a member of and we all agree that if one of the other members has a problem, we can turn on in a very short amount of time and help that other person out.”
That group is known as the Southwest Power Pool, which we’ll learn more about in another one of our special reports. Berkstresser adds that group also steps in during planned outages for repair work at the power plants, and can step in if a utility company has an unexpected failure, to ensure customers, never notice anything went wrong. During the winter storm, and during any major weather event, Berkstresser says they always examine how the plant performed. “We’ve spent the last 20 years, every time there’s bad weather, whether it’s hot or cold, what failed? How do we make it better? What looked like it was going to fail? How do we make it better? How do we avoid those problems going forward?”
Berkstresser says the answers to those questions have led to improvements and enhancements at plants across the grid to ensure they can keep up with energy demand. Thursday on the KOAM News at 6:00, we’ll take a look at what the Southwest Power Pool is and how it impacts our local utilities.
Chris Warner is the morning weather anchor for KOAM, joining the SkyWatch Weather Team in July of 2022. Chris joined the KOAM team in January of 2017. He comes to KOAM after spending several years in retail management across the Joplin area. Before that, he spent nearly five years as a photographer/reporter at KSNF. In his career, he’s covered several breaking news stories, including the Anderson Guest House Fire, the shooting at the Micronesian congregation in Neosho, and more recently the Duck Boat incident in Branson. A Joplin native, Chris has had a passion for broadcasting that goes back to age 5 when he hung a news logo he made on a wall and repeated the news he just watched on TV. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews in his lifetime with Governors, Senators, mothers, fathers, and even 5 year olds. He took his passion for broadcasting to high school where he anchored and reported for the launch of Joplin High School’s JET 14 in 2005. There, he won the school’s first ever First Place for News at the Missouri Southern Student Showcase for a story on the school district’s upcoming bond issue. Growing up, Chris was terrified of thunderstorms and figured the best way to overcome that fear, was to learn as much about the weather as he could. Over the years, he studied the weather independently. Now, instead of just giving the weather to his family and friends, he’s bringing it to you Monday through Friday on the KOAM Morning News. Chris is married to Amber, a Carthage native. Together, they have three children that Chris considers the most important story of his life.