Tampa Electric Co.'s coal-fired Big Bend power plant in southern Hillsborough County is one of nine U.S. plants to rank in the top 50 for carbon dioxide emissions both in sheer tonnage and in amount per megawatt of electricity, says a new report.
From the movie An Inconvenient Truth to Gov. Charlie Crist's recent Climate Change Summit in Miami, greenhouse emissions, such as carbon dioxide, and global warming have received unprecedented publicity - and pressure for change.
The nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project report - Dirty Kilowatts: America's Most Polluting Power Plants - issued Thursday ranked 378 U.S. plants based on their total output of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury. The ranking was based on data reported to federal agencies by the utilities. Nationwide, power plants produce 40 percent of carbon dioxide, about two thirds of sulfur dioxide, 22 percent of nitrogen oxides and about a third of mercury, according to the report.
"We do not need to take this dirty route for our energy needs," said Valerie True, spokesperson for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "Most southern states have a lot of energy-efficiency potential, some even up to 40 percent."
While high in the carbon dioxide ranks, Tampa Electric's Big Bend plant overall ranked 45th out of the nation's 50 dirtiest power plants.
Progress Energy's Crystal River coal-fired plant ranked 21st as the only other Florida plant on the list. But it ranked 3rd in tons of nitrogen oxide emitted - 35,412.
The Big Bend plant generated 30,714 tons of nitrogen oxides and produced 11.7-million tons of carbon dioxide.
"The global warming debate is over," said Dean Hulse of the Clean Electricity Committee of the Dakota Resource Council. "We are heating up the earth, and the burning of coal is one of the biggest contributors of global warming pollution."
Carbon dioxide pollution could rise 34 percent by 2030 if large, old and inefficient power plants continue operating unchecked, according to the report.
To address some of the concerns over traditional coal-fired power plants, Tampa Electric recently proposed to the Florida Public Service Commission building a so-called "clean coal" or IGCC baseload plant in Polk County, said Rick Morera, Tampa Electric spokesman. IGCC, or integrated gasification combined cycle, technology gasifies coal before it's burned to cut the amount of pollutants.
"The current technology to deal with carbon is just in the developmental stages and is not ready for application in a coal-fired plant," Morera said. "If the requirements are that we have to capture a certain amount of carbon, this new technology will allow us to be able to do that."
The Big Bend plant, which sits on the shore of Tampa Bay, already has scrubbers to manage pollutants and has installed one of four catalytic-reduction technology units, which control nitrogen oxide emissions. The company will install one a year until 2010.
"After all four have been installed, we should come off this (dirty plants) list completely," Morera said. "By 2010, just Big Bend alone will have reduced sulfur dioxide by 84 percent, nitrogen oxide by 85 percent and particulate matter by 61 percent."
In the ranking of dirty plants based on the emission rate of the pollutant sulfur dioxide, Progress Energy's Anclote power plant in Holiday was No. 41. And in the rankings for nitrogen oxide, Florida plants of Progress Energy, Tampa Electric, the Seminole Electric Cooperative and the Jacksonville Electric Authority were cited.
Nina Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8913.
45 Rank of TECO's Big Bend power plant out of 378 U.S. plants in the Environmental Integrity Project report.
1 Other Florida plants on the list. Crystal River's coal-fired plant ranked 21st.
11.7M Tons of carbon dioxide the Big Bend plant produced.
30,714 Tons of nitrogen oxides the plant produced.