“What we’re planning on doing at Plant Bowen is building a bag house and what that does is control mercury to comply with the new EPA rules. And we want to make sure we keep Plant Bowen in our capacity. All four units are flagship units,” said Meredith Odom, Southern Company capital markets team leader. “Basically, adding the baghouse is adding the last type of pollution control you can add to a coal unit. So at this point, we feel whatever they pass that we’ll be able to comply. The one thing that is outstanding is CO2 and really at this point there isn’t a technology to add that has been developed.”
At a special called meeting of the Bartow County Development Authority, board members authorized an initial bond issuance of $700 million for the mercury control project. While the majority of funds called down will be used to construct the baghouse, some also will allow for the construction of a injection system to separate mercury from flue gasses.
“Georgia Power Company is in the process of refunding a couple of issues we have previously done, plus they are looking at a new issue in the $700 [million] to $775 million range in connection to pollution control work at Plant Bowen,” said Boyd Pettit, board attorney. “For resolution purposes, we may come back and do a supplemental, but right now it is $700 million. They are asking the authority to issue bonds in connection with that. Those bonds are not debts of Bartow County or the state of Georgia, nor are they secured by any Bartow County assets, tax pledge, anything else of Bartow County or the state. They are solely repayable from the proceeds or from the funds of Georgia Power Company.”
Construction on the project is expected to take about four years, beginning in the spring of 2013. The last major construction project at Plant Bowen created more than 1,000 temporary construction jobs. It is unknown at this time whether the project will create any permanent jobs.
A baghouse is a mechanism containing many fabric filters, or bags, through which flue gas travels trapping any unburned carbon in the flyash.
As environmental concerns mount against coal-fired power plants, regulations are increasing for a variety of pollutants. Recent projects have added selective catalytic reduction units and a $1.2 billion scrubber project to reduce sulfur dioxide.
“There’s SCRs, there’s scrubbers and now the bag house. You really have the full gamut of environmental controls at that asset and that’s a very positive thing, not only for that resource, but it should really give you confidence in how we view that facility as a flagship coal facility,” said Jamie Hockin, Georgia Power area manager. “They also have a new water-research facility out there. ... What they’re going to wind up doing is bring in utilities worldwide to see how we can better use water in our processes and it’s all going to be done at Plant Bowen.”
The continued improvements and additions to Plant Bowen were seen by members of the development authority as a long-term commitment to production, investment and employment from the Bartow County facility.
“Trace amounts of mercury can exist in coal and other fossil fuels. When these fuels burn, mercury vapor can be released to the atmosphere,” states the U.S. Department of Energy website. “Coal-fired power plants contribute only a small part of the total worldwide emissions of mercury. The estimated 48 tons of mercury they emit annually is about one-third of the total amount of mercury released annually by human activities in the United States.
“On Feb. 14, 2002, the Bush Administration announced its Clear Skies Initiative for multipollutant controls. The proposal required significant emission reductions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury through an allowance-based cap-and-trade program. Specifically for mercury, the Clear Skies Initiative calls for a two-phase reduction in emissions below 1999 levels (48 tons) with an approximate 45 percent reduction beginning in 2010 and a 70 percent reduction beginning in 2018.”
In appreciation for the development authority’s issuance of tax-exempt bonding, Odom thanked the board for the community’s relationship with Georgia Power.
“Particularly here in Bartow County, our very first bond was in 1973 — 39 years of relationship between Georgia Power and the Bartow County Development Authority. And we thank you so much for your support over those years and we look forward to working with you in the future,” Odom said.