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Illinois Country Living


Commentary:

Peter DeQuattro
Peter DeQuattro,President and CEO of Prairie State Energy Campus

A new generation of coal technology
The Prairie State Energy Campus will be the cleanest in the nation

As an Illinoisan, our state’s most abundant source of energy may be right under your feet. With the United States of America having greater than 25 percent of the world’s coal reserves, the state of Illinois’s underground geography is 65 percent coal, representing 38 million metric tons. The energy from Illinois’s coal supply is more than the fuel reserves in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined. It produces nearly half of our state’s electricity supply.

New technology and emission controls are providing options to use coal in the cleanest possible ways. Since 1970, emissions from coal-fueled power plants have been reduced by more than 80 percent while electrical output has almost tripled. A part of the new generation of coal, the newest coal-fueled power plant in the nation, Prairie State Energy Campus, is currently under construction in southern Illinois, in Washington County.

Prairie State Energy Campus is a mine-mouth energy complex with a 6.5 million ton per year coal mine located directly next to a super-critical, 1,600 MW power plant. Its owners and investors are eight consumer-owned municipal and electric cooperative utilities and Peabody Energy. The Prairie State owners will use its power to provide electricity for more than 2.5 million families in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia and West Virginia.

With more than $1 billion in emission controls, Prairie State Energy Campus will be the cleanest coal-fueled power plant in the nation. Without factoring in its state-of-the-art emission controls, its super-critical steam/electrical generating process is more efficient allowing it to emit 15 percent less emissions than a typical coal plant. Considering Prairie State’s emissions controls, it will remove 98 percent of SO2, 90 percent of NOx and more than 99 percent of PM (particulate matter), the most commonly tracked emissions.

Because of the development of emission control equipment, Illinois coal is having a comeback. Its high-sulfur content and the high cost of pollution control equipment kept many utilities from using Illinois coal. Low-sulfur Wyoming coal dominated the market. Southern Illinois Power Cooperative added sulfur-scrubbing equipment and Prairie State’s latest environmental equipment makes Illinois coal and mining jobs viable.

Developing countries like Brazil, India and China, which are currently building their energy infrastructure, appear to be less restrictive and are becoming fertile markets for Illinois coal. Recently, another energy company, Foresight Energy, announced it was purchasing a rail terminal west of New Orleans, in order to firm up coal sales into international markets. They doubled the capacity - from 4 million to 8 million tons per year, of the port/rail facility to handle Illinois coal exports.

Illinois coal is in the midst of revitalization. According to the Illinois Coal Association, at its height, more than 10,000 coal miners called Illinois home. Following the Clean Air Act of the early 90s, many of the Illinois coal mines closed and employment dropped. Today, 4,000 coal miners are working in Illinois coal mines and numbers are steadily climbing.

In addition to being an abundant, safe and clean energy source with new technology, an additional advantage of coal is its low and stable cost of supply. According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), coal costs around one-third the price of other fuels like natural gas, which is one of the primary substitutes for coal for meeting base load electricity needs. As the nation slowly climbs out of a recession, affordable electricity is especially important for Illinois families. A recent American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE)-commissioned analysis found that the 60 million American households with annual incomes below $50,000 spent 22 percent of their after-tax income on energy.

Since breaking ground in 2007, more than 4,000 construction personnel have been on site building Prairie State Energy Campus. Over 150 local suppliers and vendors have been used to provide products and services to the campus. When construction is finished in 2012, Prairie State will employ over 500 people on a permanent, full time basis.

A study completed by the University of Illinois predicts that Prairie State will stimulate an additional 860 jobs and an extra $80 million of earnings into the Illinois economy. It will contribute more than $785 million annually in economic activity.

The Prairie State Energy campus will serve as an example of how our region’s current and future energy needs can be met in a safe, reliable, environmentally responsible and cost-effective manner that will also serve to strengthen and grow the region’s economic base.

 


Peter DeQuattro has served as President and CEO of Prairie State Energy Campus since May 2008. He has 22 years of experience in designing, constructing, operating and maintaining primarily coal-fired power plants at various companies.

© 2014 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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