Rural Missouri Magazine

Our Clean Air

by Frank Stork

Electric cooperative members have a keen interest in clean air. As generators of electric power, many electric co-ops are asked by their members what investments they are making to meet or exceed current clean air standards.

After talking with the plant managers, I learned about a number of changes they’ve made in recent years. They also told me about numerous projects they have on the drawing board to reduce emissions even more.

One thing I notice when I visit a power plant is that the emissions from the smokestacks are almost transparent. I recall when the emissions were darker and I wondered what brought about the change. I was truly impressed with what I found out.

Our electric cooperatives operate eight power plants to provide electricity to about 2 million people. These units consist of three coal plant sites, four natural gas plants and one fuel oil plant. Our cooperative system also purchases large amounts of hydroelectric power from the federal government. They have enough capacity to meet their member needs.

Since 1994, the electric cooperative system has cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 84 percent! This significant reduction was achieved through the closing of Missouri coal mines and making changes that allow us to burn low-sulfur western coal. The coal is shipped by rail from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. On a per ton basis, the shipping cost is more than the cost of the coal.

In addition to being one of the first utilities to switch to low-sulfur coal, electric cooperative owners took the lead in reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Over the past two years, they have added “selective catalytic reduction” equipment to the two coal-fired plants at New Madrid. As a result of this investment, they are able to achieve a 70 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions over a 12-month period. During the peak ozone periods, this equipment is capable of achieving a 93 percent NOx reduction.

New technology to modify the combustion process on a large coal-fired unit was recently installed at the Thomas Hill power plant site near Macon. As a result, NOx emissions were reduced by 50 percent. They will install this same technology on the other two units as soon as possible.

Over the past six years, electric cooperatives have invested more than $300 million on state-of-the-art emission controls. Over that same period, they have spent nearly $600 million in the construction of low-emission natural gas plants to serve the needs of cooperative members.

The more than 400 electric co-op directors who live and work in rural Missouri assure me they are firmly committed to their costly but worthwhile clean air objective. As they plan for future electric power supply, they will continue to strongly support a balanced economic and environmental approach to a national energy policy.

Stork was executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102

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