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Power Plant Of The Future

On the banks of the Ohio River at Maysville, East Kentucky Power Cooperative is building what you could call “the power plant of the future.”

The use of clean-coal technology will be among the innovations in the $400 million project. Begun in July 2002, the E.A. Gilbert Unit will be ready in the spring of 2005 to produce 268 megawatts of electricity for Kentucky co-op customers—enough to power 30 cities the size of Maysville.

The first coal-fired unit to be built by the Winchester-based co-op in 22 years, the Gilbert Unit is the only new coal-fired plant under construction by an electric utility in the United States.

East Kentucky’s Maysville Spurlock Station is already the site of two older generating units. Both use conventional pulverized-coal technology to produce electricity. The Gilbert Unit will cover about two acres of the site, and share a common wall with one of the existing units.

Building the Gilbert Unit next to the other units offers several advantages. The new generating unit can connect easily to the existing infrastructure, sharing everything from water supplies, sewage disposal, fire suppression systems, and the transmission lines to send the electricity to customers. It also means all three units can share coal handling facilities.

But there’s a big difference in how the units use the coal.

The older units burn a low-ash coal with a high energy content. That kind of coal has to be pre-cleaned before it can be burned. The Gilbert Unit can burn a much higher ash coal with a slightly lower energy content. The Gilbert Unit can burn such “run of the mine” coal (which often has bits of dirt and other non-coal materials mixed in) as it arrives without any extra steps—and that means a big cost savings.

The Gilbert Unit can do things differently because it burns the coal in a new way, with a “Circulating Fluidized Bed” process. East Kentucky engineer Craig Johnson, manager of the Gilbert Project, says, “This means that pulverized limestone is blown into the furnace with the crushed coal so they burn together, and that reduces sulfur emissions dramatically.”

The burning process at the Gilbert Unit will remove 98 percent of the sulfur dioxide.

Another efficiency in the Gilbert Unit’s process recycles the tiny particles and gases released into the flue and burns them again, getting the most energy from raw materials.

Over the years updated pollution-control technology has been added to the two older units. A selective catalytic reduction device (SCR) to control emissions of nitrogen oxides was retrofitted on Unit Two and began operating in 2002. A $200 million project to install an SCR on Unit One is still in progress and should be operating in 2004.

But the Gilbert Unit’s new clean-coal technology means that from day one it will emit five times less nitrogen oxides than conventional unmodified plants.

Bob Hughes, environmental affairs manager for East Kentucky, says, “When the Gilbert Unit comes on line in the spring of 2005, it will be the cleanest coal-burning unit in America. The Gilbert Unit will have extremely low emissions in all categories.”

The new Gilbert Unit’s configuration will also allow for burning a variety of fuels, such as old tires, sawdust, and other industrial byproducts. Burning alternative materials to make electricity could be an important step in the quest for a cleaner environment.

Roy Palk, East Kentucky president, says, “The Gilbert Unit is a prime example of how good environmental policies and good business practices can go hand-in-hand. This new plant demonstrates our faith in new technology.”

To find out more about the Gilbert Unit visit this Web site:

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