Coal Lighting Up Northeast Arkansas

May 23, 2007 - Posted at 6:12 p.m. CDT

NEWARK, AR -- If you have traveled to Independence County you have probably seen the giant power plant cooling towers just outside of Newark...but do you know what goes on inside?

If you live in Jonesboro - it's a pretty good bet that when you flip the light switch its coal that makes it light up.

"Really coal in this country is our main natural resource that is available without imports," said CWL Manager Ron Bowan.

Bowen's organization owns 10% of the Independence coal power plant in Newark and says coal is the key to keeping your electrical cost down.

"These coal plants are by far the biggest asset we own and contribute more than any other component to keeping the liability up and the rates down," said Bowan.

The coal the plant uses from Montana is fairly inexpensive.  However according to plant general manager Mike Kolbus, the reason your electrical bill is higher is the same reason it costs more to get to work.

"The transportation cost from that side of the country to Independence County is a pretty substantial part of our fuel cost," said Kolbus.

To give you an idea of just how large scale of an operation it is at the Independence Power Plant, at any time the plant will have a 50 day supply of coal on site and the cooling towers will crank out more than 8000 gallons of water vapor a minute.

"One the average we burned over 7 million tons of coal a year and like 11 million kilowatts of electricity," said Kolbus.

According to Kolbus, the plant burns around 20,000 tons of coal a day and produces enough electricity to power a city larger than Little Rock. With the increasing cost of oil, he feels coal plants like the Independence Plant will continue to be important to filling our growing power needs.

"When you look at the coal supplies in the United States there is enough to power generation and other needs for years to come," said Kolbus.

Which means those little black rocks will be keeping you cool this summer and for many more to come.

In addition to Jonesboro the Independence Power Plant also supplies electricity for West Memphis, Conway, Osceola, East Texas, and Entergy in Arkansas and Mississippi.