Coal Plant Retirements

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,596
Northern NH

Looks like companies are shutting down plants despite pollical attempts at keeping them open.

NH still has two coal plants. They were owned by the states biggest utility which meant the utility effectively got paid to keep them in operation even if they were not competitive. The utility decided to become a strictly transmission and distribution company and sold all their power generation in the last two years. The "green" hydro power was sold to a couple of "green" firms while the coal plants were sold to a hedge fund that is required by the terms of the deal to run the plants for three years and keep the employees working at the plants employed under the same contracts they had under the utility (very generous pay, benefits and pensions). The utility made out well on this deal as the NH ratepayer had to pay off the significant paper losses the utility had on the books between what they claimed the plants were worth and what the market would pay. Its expected that at the end of three years unless the hedge fund works out a deal with the regional grid operator to keep non natural gas fired generation in the regional generation mix that both plants will have a tough time running. The New England region is currently short of generation so they may just pull it off at least in the short term. No doubt in my mind that if the plants close the hedge funds owning the plants will disappear and the state will end up with a couple of hazardous waste sites to clean up.

This sort of short and long term thinking is going on all over the country. In the short term coal may be "cheap" using existing assets but a change of the administration could make it quite expensive if carbon limits are put in place. Coal ash is also a potential for long term liability as Duke Energy has recently found out. Coal ash would be regulated as hazardous waste if it was not a byproduct of coal power plants. It is generated in large quantities and up until recently was moved around a plant with water making it a wet slurry that has be pumped to holding ponds to slowly dry out. The resulting sludge is toxic and when either it or the leachate from the ponds get into the surroundings it is hard on the ecosystems down stream. A new administration does not need to ban coal directly but changing the requirements for ash disposal could quickly drive the cost for coal fired power up.

The only slight bit of optimism is the conversion of these coal plants to nuclear fueled plants using the new Small Modular Reactor (SMR) concepts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_modular_reactor. The actual power boiler and fuel handling systems are useless but the turbines and cooling systems and balance of plant systems can be reused. IMHO unless there is major shift in nuclear sentiment in the US, I don't see this happening in the US but possibly in the third world. The third world is where it can do the most good as many third world countries, like India, depend on coal for baseload.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
Be apprised, as the consumer / end use, you will ALWAYS get to pay in the end.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,596
Northern NH
Be apprised, as the consumer / end use, you will ALWAYS get to pay in the end.

The only choice is not to use the power to begin with and at some point if enough people do so the public utility commissions will shift stranded costs onto the connection fee.
 
  • Like
Reactions: SpaceBus

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
The only choice is not to use the power to begin with and at some point if enough people do so the public utility commissions will shift stranded costs onto the connection fee.


For most people, that is almost impossible to do or at least extremely difficult.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,596
Northern NH
I dont agree, many of us have reduced our energy usage by efficiency practices (anyone can do that as its the quickest payback) some of us have installed solar (where local policies are amenable) and some others have gone electric vehicle where it make sense.
 
  • Like
Reactions: sloeffle

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
I dont agree, many of us have reduced our energy usage by efficiency practices (anyone can do that as its the quickest payback) some of us have installed solar (where local policies are amenable) and some others have gone electric vehicle where it make sense.
Whether you agree or not, still the way it plays for the majority of Americans.

My issue with electric vehicles and solar is, a lot of the elements used to make them come from China, not here. We need to be more independent and not dependent on countries like China. Solar only works if the sun shines and electric vehicles (at this point) have limited range and still get their power from central power plants, so, you may 'feel green' by plugging them in but in reality one has to look at where the juice originates from and again, you get to pay for it.

At my age, I'm not concerned with alternative fuels except to say that running biomass lowers my heat cost and being frugal, I like that.
 
  • Like
Reactions: WinterinWI

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,596
Northern NH
Probably a good discussion for the inglenook.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
Maybe, but I'm not going to initiate it because it don't have much discussion value for me. besides, I need to walk the dog and fill the stove with corn.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,480
South Puget Sound, WA
Happening in our area too. A portion of WA state energy comes from these plants.
 
  • Like
Reactions: SpaceBus

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,596
Northern NH
BTW as an engineer I am somewhat sad to see them go as technically they are very interesting. Up close and personal a modern coal power plant has been squeezed for every bit of efficiency they can get. Some of the newest coal boilers generate ultrasupercritical steam using metalurgys that didn't exist commercially until recently. The scale is huge and the number of moving parts is amazing.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,480
South Puget Sound, WA
But then as you note, there is the ash and slag.

We humans are pretty good at coming up with ideas to cope with planetary variables, but we are poor at dealing with waste. That's one place nature has us beat, hands down. Some of the WTE plants are getting there, but we need to do much better in this area in general.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
One major difference, wood ash is not laced with heavy metals. But you knew that already.


My ash from the corn burner goes in the garden. Need to add a bit of hydrated lime in the spring however.
 
  • Like
Reactions: WinterinWI

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,480
South Puget Sound, WA
My ash from the corn burner goes in the garden. Need to add a bit of hydrated lime in the spring however.
Yes, wouldn't do that with coal ash. I'm surprised at the need for lime. Wood ash is basic and has a similar effect.
 

WinterinWI

Burning Hunk
Dec 6, 2018
181
Wisconsin
One major difference, wood ash is not laced with heavy metals. But you knew that already.

Interesting comment. I'm not an expert on the topic, so I'm not sure why you'd think I know that already.

From Purdue University on wood stove ash:

"Trace amounts of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, nickel and chromium also may be present."
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,480
South Puget Sound, WA
Operative words - trace and maybe. In our area this could be because of a shutdown smelter that spewed arsenic and cadmium during its 50 yrs of operation.
While you are searching, look up the same for coal.
 
  • Like
Reactions: SpaceBus

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
Like maybe it will rain tomorrow but will probably snow instead.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,480
South Puget Sound, WA
Like maybe trace amounts will show up in wood that is downwind from industrial operations. Like downwind from a coal plant.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,254
Downeast Maine
Coal will never really die since we need it to make cement, lime, and steel. It's unfortunate indeed. This Duke Energy issue could even become a precedent for the handling of coal ash nationwide. Last time I read the numbers they are estimating 17 billion dollars to clean up billions of tons of ash. At some point we will have to figure out a practical use for the fly ash.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
Actually, fly as can be converted into Gypsum which is a component of cement. I know the DTE coal fired plant east of here does that and ships it out via rail and Lakes boats. Not so much with spent radioactive fuel rods from Fermi 2. They have a huge containment yard on site loaded with casks.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,254
Downeast Maine
Actually, fly as can be converted into Gypsum which is a component of cement. I know the DTE coal fired plant east of here does that and ships it out via rail and Lakes boats. Not so much with spent radioactive fuel rods from Fermi 2. They have a huge containment yard on site loaded with casks.
You can add *some* fly ash to hydraulic cement products. It is not a replacement, but it can make better cement products, as can wood ash. Adding the coal ash back into the lime based products the coal was used to make is not new. There is way more coal ash than products in which it can be used. Duke Energy would not be spending billions of dollars in cleanup if the ash were profitable.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
Feb 7, 2010
5,273
S.E. Michigan
You can add *some* fly ash to hydraulic cement products. It is not a replacement, but it can make better cement products, as can wood ash. Adding the coal ash back into the lime based products the coal was used to make is not new. There is way more coal ash than products in which it can be used. Duke Energy would not be spending billions of dollars in cleanup if the ash were profitable.


I'm not privy to all the aspects like you are, Interestingly, the cement quarry that closed east of here (Holcim), used scrap tires as supplemental fuel for it's cement kilns. The burned so hot it melted the steel belts inside and consumed the rubber too, Took them whole and roasted them, thousands a day. Was the largest open pit limestone quarry in the US at one time.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,254
Downeast Maine
I'm not privy to all the aspects like you are, Interestingly, the cement quarry that closed east of here (Holcim), used scrap tires as supplemental fuel for it's cement kilns. The burned so hot it melted the steel belts inside and consumed the rubber too, Took them whole and roasted them, thousands a day. Was the largest open pit limestone quarry in the US at one time.
Burning tires is horrible from an emissions point of view. You can also be privy to the details with Google.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,480
South Puget Sound, WA
The handwriting is on the wall. Blackrock, the largest investment firm in the US announced today that it is pulling out of all coal power stocks.
The New York firm is taking immediate action, exiting investments in coal used to generate power, and it will begin asking clients to disclose their climate-related risks.