A new collaboration aims to ensure the sustainable use of coal ash from power generation.
US utilities Georgia Power and Southern Company have partnered with the Electric Power Research Insititute to test emerging technologies that can be used to repurpose coal combustion products (CCPs). To this end, the three parties have established the Ash Beneficial Use Center at the Bowen steam plant, which is owned by Georgia Power.
The center will be used as a testbed at which EPRI and the three utilities will partner with academia, research institutions and technology developers to validate the effectiveness and cost profiles of solutions, as well as the long-term environmental effects of reusing the coal ash.
Today, the majority of the coal ash is dumped in landfills and ash pounds. The collaboration comes at a time the majority of global utilities and governments are calling for the retirement of coal energy generation to address climate change. However, less noise is being made regarding what will be done to existing coal energy generation infrastructure and resources.
Have you read?
Are renewables really sustainable?
China reopening coal mines to meet accelerating demand
PEI Connect: Mining the minerals to drive energy transition
Asia continues to back coal despite climate pressure – IEA report
CCPs, particularly fly ash, are commonly used as a cement replacement. Emerging technologies may allow CCPs to replace mined virgin materials in a wide range of products, such as tiles, zeolites, and plastics. This will in turn reduce mining activities and at the same time reduce the associated environmental degradation.
At the same time, reusing coal ash can help in the creation of new economic opportunities and job creation. Today and in the years to come, workers within the coal industry are facing job losses as the transition to renewable energy intensifies. However, exploring some economic opportunities within the coal sector can pave the way for a just energy transition.
Neva Espinoza, EPRI vice president of energy supply and low-carbon resources, said: “Developing cost-effective technologies to recycle coal ash is an important aspect of the clean energy transition.
“This unique research center provides an opportunity for utilities, researchers, and vendors to collaborate and advance technologies from benchtop to commercial operation.”
Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of environmental and natural resources for Georgia Power, adds: “As a part of our ash pond closure efforts, Georgia Power is always looking for opportunities to reuse coal ash that are not only beneficial to our customers, but for our communities and environment as well.
“The Ash Beneficial Use Center is paving the way for the latest coal ash technologies to be used productively. We hope to eventually see closed ash ponds and landfills become resources as new and improved uses are developed and proven through this center.”