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Coal power in the United States

Coal power accounts for about half of the electricity production in the United States. Utilities buy more than 90 percent of the coal mined in the United States .

In 2006, there were 1493 coal-powered units at the electrical utilities across the US, with the total nominal capacity of 335.8 GW (compared to 1024 units at nominal 278 GW in 2000). The actual average generated power from coal in 2006 was 227.1 GW (1.991 trillion kilowatt-hours per year), the highest in the world and still slightly ahead of China (1.95 trillion kilowatt-hours per year) at that time. Back in 2000, the US average production of electricity from coal was 224.3 GW (1.966 trillion kilowatt-hours per year). In 2006, the U.S. consumed or 92.3% of coal for electricity generation.

Recent trends, comparisons, and forecasts

Average share of electricity generated from coal in the US has dropped slightly, from 52.8% in 1997 to 49.0% in 2006. However, due to growth of the total demand for electricity, the net production of coal-generated electricity increased over the same period from 1.845 to 1.991 trillion kilowatt-hours per year in absolute terms.

The coal plants are mostly base-load plants and account for about 32% of the peak electricity production in the summer, when the electricity demand is the highest and the auxiliary (mostly non-coal) plants are added to the grid.

The average share of electricity generated from coal power was projected to increase again with a coal plant building boom. As of 2007, 154 new coal-fired plants are on the drawing board in 42 states. The Energy Department forecasted that coal's share will rise to 57 percent by 2030, fueled in part by rising natural gas prices , but in 2008 it has said that the conversion from coal to biomass power is a growing trend in the United States .

Canceled and slowed proposals

Environmental impacts

In the United States, three coal-fired power plants reported the largest toxic air releases in 2001 :

Acid rain

Byproducts of coal plants have been linked to acid rain.

Sulfur dioxide emissions

Below is a comprehensive list of the 86 dirtiest large (above 100 MWe) U.S. coal-fired power plants in 2006, in terms of their SO2 emission rates:

Rank Plant name State Year(s) built Parent company Capacity
(MWe)
Total SO2 emissions
(tons)
SO2 rate
(lb/MWh)
1 R. Gallagher IN 1958-61 Duke Energy 600 50,819 40.38
2 Muskingum River OH 1953-58, 1968 American Electric Power 1529 122,984 32.78
3 Warrick IN 1960-70 Alcoa 755 92,919 32.69
4 Hatfield's Ferry PA 1969-71 Allegheny Energy 1728 135,082 28.91
5 Portland PA 1958-62 Reliant Energy 427 30,685 28.30
6 Wabash River IN 1953-56, 1968, 1995 Duke Energy 1165 58,793 27.66
7 Shawville PA 1954-60 Reliant Energy 626 47,287 26.96
8 Cayuga IN 1970-72 Duke Energy 1062 86,174 26.68
9 Morgantown MD 1970-71 Mirant 1252 98,073 26.08
10 Keystone PA 1967-68 Reliant Energy 1872 164,354 25.83
11 Avon Lake OH 1949, 1970 Reliant Energy 766 43,479 24.50
12 Harding Street IN 1958-61, 1973 AES 698 46,346 24.00
13 Jefferies SC 1970 Santee Cooper 346 26,299 23.92
14 E. W. Brown KY 1957-63, 1971 E.ON 739 45,191 23.75
15 Montour PA 1972-73 PPL 1624 129,357 23.70
16 Kammer WV 1958-59 American Electric Power 713 119,369 23.58
17 Cheswick PA 1970 Reliant Energy 637 32,373 23.01
18 E. C. Gaston AL 1960-62, 1974 Southern Company 2013 130,494 22.91
19 Dickerson MD 1959-62 Mirant 588 35,954 22.82
20 Johnsonville TN 1951-59 Tennessee Valley Authority 1485 86,793 22.67
21 Fort Martin WV 1967-68 Allegheny Energy 1152 87,565 21.79
22 Yates GA 1950-58, 1974 Southern Company 1487 75,476 21.63
23 Big Brown TX 1971-72 Luminant 1187 96,221 21.59
24 Chalk Point MD 1964-65 Mirant 728 49,591 21.14
25 Merrimack NH 1960-68 Northeast Utilities 459 32,726 20.70
26 Leland Olds ND 1966, 1975 Basin Electric Power Cooperative 656 40,027 20.50
27 Brunner Island PA 1961-69 PPL 1559 93,545 20.49
28 Walter C. Beckjord OH 1952-62, 1969 Duke Energy 1221 62,480 20.32
29 Hammond GA 1954-55, 1970 Southern Company 953 40,579 20.25
30 Conesville OH 1962, 1973-78 American Electric Power 1891 90,540 20.00
31 Yorktown VA 1957-59 Dominion 375 21,685 19.86
32 Gorgas AL 1951-58, 1972 Southern Company 1417 81,268 19.53
33 Greene County AL 1965-66 Southern Company 568 37,863 18.99
34 Eastlake OH 1953-56, 1972 FirstEnergy 1257 82,705 18.87
35 Harllee Branch GA 1965-69 Southern Company 1746 95,990 18.73
36 Miami Fort OH 1949, 1960, 1975-78 Duke Energy 1378 62,028 18.63
37 Canadys Steam SC 1962-67 SCANA 490 22,984 18.58
38 Kyger Creek OH 1955 American Electric Power and FirstEnergy 1086 67,157 18.30
39 Bowen GA 1971-75 Southern Company 3499 206,442 18.24
40 Homer City PA 1969, 1977 Exelon 2012 106,772 17.42
41 Philip Sporn WV 1950-52, 1960 American Electric Power 1106 39,741 15.69
42 Chesterfield VA 1952-1969 Dominion 1353 64,863 15.55
43 Wateree SC 1970-71 SCANA 772 32,797 15.30
44 Jack McDonough GA 1963-64 Southern Company 598 28,835 15.29
45 E. D. Edwards IL 1960, 1968-72 Ameren 780 50,126 15.28
46 Wansley GA 1976-78 Southern Company 1904 96,200 15.25
47 Herbert A. Wagner MD 1959, 1966 Constellation Energy 495 19,646 15.13
48 Cardinal OH 1967, 1977 American Electric Power 1880 86,880 15.12
49 Clifty Creek IN 1955-56 American Electric Power and FirstEnergy 1303 65,372 14.32
50 Cliffside NC 1940-48, 1972 Duke Energy 781 28,878 14.30
51 G. G. Allen NC 1957-61 Duke Energy 1155 45,395 14.13
52 J. M. Stuart OH 1970-74 DPL 2441 103,649 14.11
53 L. V. Sutton NC 1954-55, 1972 Progress Energy 672 19,159 13.85
54 Gibson IN 1975-82 Duke Energy 3340 155,057 13.80
55 Sioux MO 1967-68 Ameren 1100 44,148 13.80
56 Mitchell WV 1971 American Electric Power 1633 53,152 13.67
57 Trenton Channel MI 1949-50, 1968 DTE Energy 776 29,066 13.52
58 Clinch River VA 1958-61 American Electric Power 713 27,134 13.17
59 Marshall NC 1965-70 Duke Energy 1996 85,050 13.17
60 Hudson NJ 1968 PSE&G 660 19,709 13.04
61 Big Sandy KY 1963-69 American Electric Power 1097 46,476 12.96
62 Roxboro NC 1966-73, 1980 Progress Energy 2558 92,259 12.55
63 Williams SC 1973 SCANA 633 28,147 12.53
64 Belews Creek NC 1974-75 Duke Energy 2160 95,290 12.30
65 Sandow 4 TX 1981 Luminant 591 23,747 12.25
66 Indian River DE 1957-59, 1970, 1980 NRG Energy 782 20,705 12.24
67 Tanners Creek IN 1951-54, 1964 American Electric Power 1100 35,494 12.08
68 John Sevier TN 1955-57 Tennessee Valley Authority 800 30,126 11.95
69 Jack Watson MS 1968, 1973 Southern Company 750 29,113 11.94
70 Bull Run TN 1967 Tennessee Valley Authority 950 27,987 11.92
71 John E. Amos WV 1971-73 American Electric Power 2933 117,299 11.68
72 Paradise KY 1963, 1970 Tennessee Valley Authority 2558 83,926 11.55
73 Monroe MI 1970-74 DTE Energy 3280 103,570 11.52
74 St. Clair MI 1953-54, 1961, 1969 DTE Energy 1547 42,374 11.39
75 Crist FL 1959-61, 1970-73 Southern Company 1135 35,614 11.34
76 Genoa WI 1969 Dairyland Power Cooperative 346 11,420 11.26
77 Michigan City IN 1974 NiSource 540 15,993 11.21
78 Mayo NC 1983 Progress Energy 736 24,499 11.20
79 W. H. Sammis OH 1959-62, 1967-71 FirstEnergy 2456 86,392 11.08
80 Milton R. Young ND 1970, 1977 Minnkota Power Cooperative 734 26,879 11.06
81 Killen OH 1982 DPL 666 22,825 10.97
82 Kingston TN 1954-55 Tennessee Valley Authority 1700 55,473 10.69
83 Winyah SC 1975-81 Santee Cooper 1260 42,709 10.68
84 Colbert AL 1955, 1965 Tennessee Valley Authority 1350 39,942 10.41
85 Monticello TX 1974-78 Luminant 1980 77,538 10.37
86 H. L. Spurlock KY 1977-81, 2005 East Kentucky Power Cooperative 1279 38,877 10.22

While these 86 plants have a capacity of 107.1 GW, or 9.9% of total U.S. electric capacity, they emitted 5,389,592 tons of SO2 in 2006 – which represents 28.6% of U.S. SO2 emissions from all sources.

Carbon footprint: CO2 emissions

Emissions from electricity generation account for the largest share of U.S. greenhouse gases, 38.9% of U.S. production of carbon dioxide in 2006 (with transportation emissions close behind, at 31%). Although coal power only accounted for 49% of the U.S. electricity production in 2006, it was responsible for 83% of CO2 emissions caused by electricity generation that year, or 1,970 Tg of CO2 emissions. Further 130 Tg of CO2 were released by other industrial coal-burning applications.

Mercury pollution

U.S. coal-fired electricity-generating power plants owned by utilities emitted an estimated 48 tons of mercury in 1999, the largest source of man-made mercury pollution in the U.S. In 1995-96, this accounted for 32.6% of all mercury emitted into the air by human activity in the U.S. In addition, 13.1% was emitted by coal-fired industrial and mixed-use commercial boilers, and 0.3% by coal-fired residential boilers, bringing the total U.S. mercury pollution due to coal combustion to 46% of the U.S. man-made mercury sources. In contrast, China's coal-fired power plants emitted an estimated 200 ± 90 tons of mercury in 1999, which was about 38% of Chinese human-generated mercury emissions (45% being emitted from non-ferrous metals smelting).

Public debate

Advocates

In 2007 an advertising campaign was launched to improve public opinion on coal power titled America's Power. This was done by Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, a pro-coal organization started in 2000.

Opposition

In the face of increasing electricity demand through the 2000s, the US has seen a "Growing Trend Against Coal-Fired Power Plants". In 2006 through 2007 there was first a bullish market attitude towards coal with the expectation of a new wave of plants, but political barriers and pollution concerns escalated potentially, which is likely to damage plans for new generation and put pressure on older plants. In 2007, 59 proposed coal plants were cancelled, abandoned, or placed on hold by sponsors as a result of financing obstacles, regulatory decisions, judicial rulings, and new global warming legislation.

The Stop Coal campaign has called for a moratorium on the construction of any new coal plants and for the phase out of all existing plants, citing concern for global warming. Others have called for a carbon tax and a requirement of carbon sequestration for all coal power plants.

See also

References

External links

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