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Posted on January 5th, 2016

Our Changing Landscape – Kemper County Energy Project

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with time series of medium resolution RapidEye satellite imagery. The RapidEye archive dates back to late 2008 and already contains more than 7 billion square kilometers of data. For January, our focus stays on controversial infrastructure development with a look at the Kemper County Energy Project in Mississippi.

The RapidEye Constellation

RapidEye is a constellation of five 5-meter medium resolution satellites each offering five spectral bands of information. The RapidEye constellation offers daily revisits to every location on the planet with a huge footprint that is 77-km wide. The data is priced competitively with a starting cost of $1.28 per square kilometer for all five spectral bands – academics do receive discounts. RapidEye adds a fifth band, the red edge, to the ‘traditional’ multispectral set of blue, green, red and near-infrared (NIR). The additional spectral data in the red edge band allows users to extract more useful land ‘information’ than can be from traditional 4-band imagery sources. When RapidEye imagery is ordered as a Level 3A Orthorectified product, images from multiple dates are extremely well registered, making it the ideal data source for Our Changing Landscape.

Kemper County Energy Project

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color RapidEye imagery collected over the Kemper County Energy Project in rural Mississippi on July 2, 2009, April 2, 2011, October 25, 2013 and May 1, 2015. In the animation you can see the construction of the power plant expand from just open fields and forests to a large complex. The main construction area at the center of the image measures about 3,475 meters long by 1,625 meters wide – that is one big project! (Images Courtesy: BlackBridge)

As has been our approach introducing past controversial projects, the intent here is to report the facts as we see them without taking a stand for either side. With this in mind, first a bit about the Kemper County Energy Project (KCEP) in Kemper County, Mississippi. The 582-megawatt power plant utilizes integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology to convert local lignite (a lower quality coal product) to natural gas for use in energy production. Sometimes referred to as clean coal, the process is touted to remove up to 65% of the carbon dioxide released in traditional coal power plants. Mississippi Power initiated construction of the plant in 2010 and it is scheduled to be completed in 2016, some two years after the initial estimated completion date. Approximately 109,000 cubic yards of concrete, 40,000 tons of structural steel and 908,000 linear feet of piping have been used in the construction of the mega power plant.

In August 2014, the KCEP combined cycle unit went online and according to Mississippi Power, it produced about one-third of the state’s power in 2014. Mississippi Power also states that the power plant created 12,000 construction jobs, and then 1,000 permanent positions once completed, plus it saves costs on energy production and reduces our dependency on foreign oil.

The critics of the KCEP point to repeated construction delays (now at least totaling two years) and significant budget overruns in their analysis of the project. Originally scheduled for completion in 2014 with a budget of $1.8 billion, the plant is not expected for completion until at least 2016 with a total cost of $6.2 billion or more. Others question the entire concept of clean coal, as they point to safety issues and the overall costs of carbon sequestration and storage that technologies like IGCC require. Another argument levied against the KCEP are the negative environmental and cultural impacts of strip mining by which the local lignite used in the combined cycle unit is extracted.

Whatever your views on the mega power plant project might be, now it’s time to track the progress of KCEP’s construction with a time-series of 5-meter RapidEye imagery.

If you would like to find out more about using RapidEye for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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