Reliant Energy's New Waste Coal Power Plant Will Convert 60 Million Tons of Waste Coal into Energy
Seward, PA— Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell marked the opening of Reliant Energy’s new waste coal power station and applauded the advanced technology that will enable Pennsylvania to power its economy by putting to use an energy source that otherwise would be a threat to the environment and public health.
Plant construction created more than 2,000 jobs, and ongoing plant operations will involve about 80 employees while using up refuse piles throughout the Conemaugh Valley to provide enough electricity to power 433,000 homes in Pennsylvania.
“This project demonstrates how investments in energy technology can help to stimulate the economy and protect the environment,” Governor Rendell said during a ceremony at the new facility in East Wheatfield Township, Indiana County. “Pennsylvania is a national leader in the development and deployment of advanced energy technology, and this plant guarantees that our Commonwealth will be a strong player in a growing energy market for years to come.”
More than 40 refuse piles have been identified for fuel supply for the first 16 years of operation for the plant, including more than 60 million tons of coal refuse. It is estimated there are an additional 10 million to 20 million tons of coal refuse to be found in piles that are still on a list to be explored and evaluated. The reuse of waste coal is a prime example of one of the main environmental themes of the Rendell administration - namely, viewing environmentally harmful material as a potential resource that can be re-used rather than remain as a liability.
As of December 2003, according to the Department of Environmental Protection, there were 8,529 acres of unreclaimed coal refuse piles throughout Pennsylvania. These piles include at least 258 million tons of waste coal that cause polluted mine drainage, scar the landscape and, in some cases, result in coal refuse fires which contribute to air pollution.
“Advanced energy projects like Reliant’s waste coal power station are helping to distinguish our Commonwealth as a leader in technology development and creating excitement about Pennsylvania as an innovative, cutting-edge place to do business,” Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said. “The ability to deliver reliable, affordable and clean energy is an investment in environmental quality, economic development and homeland security.”
Reliant’s plant includes a number of environmental controls, such as the use of a cooling tower at the facility, which will eliminate the discharge of heated water into the Conemaugh River. Ash from the facility will be used to reclaim waste coal sites. Crushed limestone will be stored on site for injection into the boilers for sulfur dioxide control. The use of the circulating fluidized bed combustion technology will control emissions of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds, both precursors to the formation of ground-level ozone. Reliant also will install selective non-catalytic reduction that in turn will help to control nitrogen oxide, a contributing factor to smog. Fabric filters will be used on emissions to control particulate matter.
The company will use coal refuse piles, known as culm, from the Conemaugh Valley and areas near the Allegheny River and the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. This area includes Indiana, Cambria, Westmoreland, Allegheny, Armstrong, Huntingdon and Somerset counties.
“Pennsylvania has a tremendous heritage of coal production that fueled the industrial revolution and provided hardworking residents with opportunities for a better life,” Governor Rendell said. “Unfortunately, that legacy left significant parts of our state scarred from past mining activities. Now, we have a unique opportunity to turn things around.”
Governor Rendell has made it a priority to clean up mine sites with an array of associated environmental and public health hazards, including underground mine fires, water-filled surface mining pits, dangerous highwalls and open mine entries. The Governor proposed $100 million over 4 years as part of his $800 million bond initiative to expand and enhance Growing Greener. The Legislature still must vote to put the funding for Growing Greener on the ballot so voters can choose yes or no.
The Governor also recently launched some major initiatives to build a clean, indigenous, diversified energy industry in the state, including re-establishing the dormant Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority. Together with a broader fund at the Department of Community and Economic Development, PEDA can provide almost $1 billion in tax-free bond financing for clean energy projects.
The administration is moving on a portfolio standard to ensure that in 10 years, 10 percent of all of the energy generated in the Commonwealth comes from clean, efficient sources. Pennsylvania is leading by example. The Governor directed the state to purchase 10 percent of its electricity from clean, advanced energy sources.
Helping to spur the market share for renewable energy is the $5 million Pennsylvania Energy Harvest grant program, which provides the last increment of financing for clean and renewable energy projects that use energy sources such as biomass, wind, solar, small-scale hydroelectric, landfill methane, coal-bed methane and waste-coal.