NEWS RELEASE                                                                                                                JUNE 2014

Winning Strategy for CO2 Reduction at Coal-fired Power Plants

The “Clean Power Plan” just announced by EPA relies on improving energy efficiency at old coal-fired power plants. That is the equivalent of trying to make a twenty year old gas guzzler as efficient as a 2014 model hybrid. The clear choice is to scrap the gas guzzler and buy a new car. This is also the obvious way to meet the EPA goals relative to coal-fired power. In fact, the new coal-fired power plant solution is a win-win situation for all sides because:

  • The environmental goals are exceeded
  • There is a big stimulus to the U.S. economy
  • Electricity rates are lower than with any other plan
  • Because of the twenty-five year optimum life of a coal-fired power plant, there will be a whole new set of options in 2045.
    • Use of vertical space. The average power plant already has stacks many hundreds of feet high. Kiewit has an innovative use of the grain tower design to build 80 foot diameter modules which are 400 feet high. So innovations such as this will result in cost effective upgrades.
    • Upgrades/replacements are more efficient and, therefore, produce more electricity for a given footprint.
    • Use of new technology such as catalytic filters. This filter combines particulate filtration and NOx reduction in one unit greatly reducing space requirements and retrofit costs.
    • Use of treated municipal wastewater for cooling and other purposes. Nearly all existing power plants are within 70 miles of enough treated municipal wastewater to supply their water needs.
    • Zero liquid discharge systems. Upgraded power plants will not have water discharges.
    • Co-generation and reduction of emissions from other sources. Great Rivers Energy has Blue Flint ethanol plant on-site. The ethanol plant has no boiler and no emissions since it uses waste heat from the power plant.
    • Supplementing coal with other fuels for optimum cost and environmental improvements. Gasified municipal waste and biomass can be used as re-burn fuels and reduce NOx.

This concept is not unique. In fact, Europe and a majority of the other countries have been replacing old inefficient coal-fired power plants with new ones. Even China has adopted this as a foundation of its greenhouse gas strategy. This strategy should appeal to environmentalists because of lower CO2 emission. It also eliminates the potential for increased coal use and puts the focus on using less coal more efficiently.

Since all sides benefit, there is every reason for agreement, fast track sitting of new power plants and simultaneous retirement of old power plants.

The “Clean Power Plan” proposed by the Obama Administration seeks to achieve a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from existing electric generating units by 2030 based on a 2005 baseline. States must show “meaningful progress” by 2020. With a strategy of coal-fired power plant replacement, this progress and compliance with the timelines will be assured.

The air pollution impact of upgrading the old fleet to supercritical efficiency would be a reduction equivalent to 2.4 billion tons of CO2. The validity of this calculation is easily determined by using the EPA cost justification values. CO2, various air toxics and each criteria pollutant is assigned a monetary value, so this creates a common metric. There are other environmental benefits. The upgraded coal-fired power plants would not generate the water and solid waste caused by the old power plants. So total environmental impact would be the equivalent of 5 billion tons of CO2


Many existing coal-fired power plants are so situated as to challenge the designer of the upgrade. However, there are many new developments which will make on-site replacements or upgrades relatively easy and very beneficial. They include:

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