The Sun Also Rises in Clinton

We were up and out early this morning to watch my hosts grandson play in the Mississippi Athletic Conference tennis tournament. The forecast was for rain (and cold) and the last text message we got before we hopped in the car to the Town of Clinton a good half hour away was that there would be an indoor facility for the games to be held. We dressed accordingly. Yeah. Our old bones were happy.

We arrive to find there was a slight change of plans. Alas and alack for us but lucky for the boys, the weather held out long enough for 99% of the matches to be played OUTDOORS before it rained seriously and although I had a rain slicker on to keep my upper body warm, my feet and I are just now being reacquainted.

No concession stand open at the outdoor courts so we snuck out between matches to a nearby McDonald’s for hot coffee but the place was so utterly filthy (it’s never good when your feet stick to the floor) that we bailed. I tweeted Mickey D’s to let them know and good for them, they got right back to me and asked for the address. FYI, the next time you are in Clinton, Burger King down the road was spotless and got us the coffee we needed to keep from our teeth chattering.

On our way into Clinton, I could see the entire right side of the town was one giant plant. Huge actually, maybe a half mile long? Good bloggers always ask to take photos so that we did. At the time I took the photos, I had NO IDEA what it was or who owned it – not a single corporate logo anywhere.







Then I did my homework. That gold dome? Incredibly, it contains 60,000 tons of COAL! The plant is Archer Daniel Midland (ADM) Co-Generation facility, new as of about 2009. Articles in the newspaper in 2006 looked like some folks were against it being built but more must have felt it would bring jobs to this part of rural Iowa that ADM won. New roads are still being built and lots of new green space too, concessions ADM must have made to the town.

ADM’s website says:

As a founding partner of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Partnership, ADM has made substantial investments to develop cogeneration plants that produce steam and electricity to help power several of our processing facilities worldwide. Such systems, the Agency notes, “can greatly increase the facility’s operational efficiency and decrease energy costs.”

In fiscal 2009, we brought our Clinton, Iowa, cogeneration plant on-line near one of the Company’s largest corn wet mills.

In the heart of corn country, Archer Daniels Midland is using seed corn that is no longer suitable for planting, along with coal, to power its 180-MW Clinton cogeneration plant. The cogeneration plant, which began operations in 2008, supports ADM’s Clinton corn processing plant, one of the largest corn wet mills in the world. It also supports ADM’s facility that produces renewable plastic from corn sugar. Firing up to 20% biomass along with coal, the new cogeneration plant is capable of providing 100% of the steam and electrical power needs of both facilities.

Designed to accommodate a wide variety of fuels, including materials that would otherwise be discarded, Archer Daniels Midland’s (ADM’s) cogeneration plant in Clinton, Iowa, has lessened the economic impact of changing energy costs and reduced the need for fossil energy.

In addition to supporting ADM’s large corn processing operations, the Clinton cogeneration plant also provides process steam and electricity to a facility at ADM’s Clinton complex that produces renewable plastic. Named “Mirel,” these plastic resins are made by using corn sugar and can biodegrade in natural environments. The Mirel facility also produces a biomass co-product that the cogeneration plant will use as a fuel to help minimize the facility’s overall carbon footprint.

With its experience at two other major cogeneration sites (Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Decatur, Ill.), ADM recognized the importance of having the flexibility to burn alternatives fuels, because they potentially create both economic and environmental benefits. ADM’s Clinton cogeneration plant also burns a biomass by-product from the company’s wastewater treatment facility.

The new cogeneration plant has reduced ADM’s vulnerability to fluctuating energy costs,” said Kevin Duffy, plant manager of the Clinton cogeneration plant. “We continue to seek ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Burning alternative fuels, including biomass, is part of this initiative. Our plant began burning biofuels in January 2010.

But even MORE interesting (to me at least) than what the plant does, is trivia about the dome!!

The worlds LARGEST half-sphere dome is 300 feet across and 150 feet high. It holds 60,000 tons of coal. That’s six 100-car unit trains.

Originally this dome was going to be gray. When it was inflated to stretch to its final shape, a large rip occurred in the material. Patches didn’t hold. The material was produced over seas and there wasn’t enough of the same color material in the USA to produce another dome. Because the dome was holding up construction, it was decided to make the second dome from gold-colored material that was available at the time. The Gold Dome was inflated with air. A plastic based insulation was sprayed on the inside of the dome. Then reinforcement bars were tied to the insulation and cement was sprayed over the bars tied onto the walls of the dome. More “rebar” was tied on and covered with cement. This continued until 4000 cubic yards of cement, and several semi-trailer loads of rebar were on all surfaces of the dome. Doors were cut in the walls of the dome and special conveyers installed. The inflatable fabric is now the weather-proof cover. Because the Gold Dome sits well inside of private property, the photo was taken from a river dike located on public property

For the tech/science geeks among you, read through the home page for the company that makes all the domes, DomeTech, located in Idaho Falls, Idaho then thank me in Japanese for imparting so much dome wisdom upon you by saying…..c’mon, you know a pun is coming……say, どうもありがとう

Then leaving town, this, as a reminder of what else makes Iowa proud.

9 thoughts on “The Sun Also Rises in Clinton

  1. Land of the rising sun? That’s the best Japanese connection we can come up with for this dominant domestic company. And, as our blogging majordomo, thanks for bringing this interesting piece to us!

  2. In my hometown, Bethlehem Steel didn’t need any fancy domes. Just mountains of coal as far as the eye could see. My grandmother’s row house had an alcove off the kitchen for hanging laundry – couldn’t hang it outside because of all of the pollution in the air from the mill.

    1. Our RI house still has a coal chute from the days it was heated that way. But Mr. EOS will have to testify here if he remembers the pollution from it or if by the time he was born coal heat was already gone.

      My grandparents lived outside Cleveland with similar tales of coal pollution as Bethlehem.

  3. I’ve been to the other plant they mention in Cedar Rapids. Who knew that soy bean processing smelled so bad? They have another kind of air pollution there – oatmeal flakes from the Quaker Oats plant.

  4. Hey hey is this thread still active?
    I grew up around the Clinton area and moved all over, but mostly lived in Oregon, eventually returning home and I live here again.
    I have always despised ADM in Clinton.
    A few months after I got back, I founded an environmental organization called Up To Earth with my girlfriend.
    We pick up trash.. a lot of trash.
    Our mission is to increase awareness and reverence of the beauty of nature.
    Part of that is looking for ways to address local sources of pollution.
    I’m not very great with politics and all of that.. I’ve just got the “get out there and do it” way thinking, so I have difficulty doing all the research and step-taking required to deal with huge insurmountable projects.. such as going up against a huge multi billion dollar corporation responsible for dooming our city in one sense.. we’ll never get that beautiful riverfront back again. Secondly, there’s no doubt that many of our parents, grandparents, and even us and our kids have been negatively affected as a direct result of ADM. The amount of pollution discharged into the water ground and air has dramatically decreased in the last few decades, but what accountability is to be found in that when there are still people affected by this business?

    How can I even begin to undue that harm, especially with it just being my girlfriend and I with a few volunteers?

    The answer is that I can’t, but I’d like to do more, I just need allies.


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