Dominion Resources is planning a 585 MWe coal and wood waste fueled power plant in Wise County, in southwest Virginia. The current plans include locally mined coal and wood waste from nearby lumber processing activities. During construction, the plant will employ about 800 people; once it is operating, it will support about 250 coal mining jobs and 75 jobs at the power plant. The plant will also directly produce as much as 5.3 million tons of CO2 each year and will be permitted to release about 10,000 tons of other pollutants including SOX, NOX, carbon monoxide, mercury, and fly ash.
The plant has been the subject of several contentious meetings, pitting local residents excited about the economic development prospects against people who live in more distant areas downwind of the plant. There are miners who want to keep working and living in an area with great natural beauty, and conservationists who want the mining to stop to preserve more of that natural beauty.
Dominion has made some design choices that are carefully designed to build support for the plant – like its promise to burn just Virginia mined coal. That might cause some local conservationists concern, but it will bring a powerful friend to the table in the form of the coal miners and mine owners. Dominion has also indicated that it will reduce overall pollution from its fleet of plants by converting one of its oldest and dirtiest coal plants to a gas turbine combined cycle (GTCC) plant that uses natural gas. That will allow it to reduce its production of all of pollutants outside of CO2.
In general, repowering efforts that convert old coal steam plants to GTCC plants do not reduce total CO2 production even though natural gas produces less CO2 per unit power output. That is because the plants generally receive a 2-3 times power uprate by adding the gas turbines and using the heat produced by those turbines to drive the existing steam plant.
You can read more about the project and the discussions at the following links:
- Power of cooperation — Dominion plant vital to economy, but lawmakers must listen to environmental concerns from the Bluefield Daily
- People in depressed region want plant from Winston-Salem Journal
- Hearing on plan for Wise plant draws hundreds from inRich.com (Richmond, VA)
Of course, I must admit that I would far prefer to have Dominion teaching people in Southwest Virginia that they could capture a lot more jobs and local property taxes if they would host a new zero emission nuclear plant rather than locking themselves into another fifty years of coal mining. They could even mine the uranium locally at Coles Hill and produce the finished fuel in an existing facility in Lynchburg.
I know I have little standing with the people of southwest Virginia to interfere in their local decisions, but I work in northern VA and will be breathing some of the particles that the tall smokestacks of that plant will spew out. I would happily live next door to a nuclear plant and have no concerns at all of being downwind from one. The tall smokestacks found at coal plants assuage the concerns of local residents, but all they do for the overall emission levels is to push them farther away.