BALDWIN — The latest in cleaner coal-burning technology was on display Monday at the Baldwin Energy Complex.
Civic leaders and media toured the power plant to see the culmination of a decade of work and upgrades. Houston-based Dynegy Inc., which owns the Baldwin power plant, spent approximately $1 billion over the past 10 years installing dry scrubbers, baghouses and mercury controlling technology at the Baldwin plant and the company's three other Illinois power plants in Wood River, Havana and Hennepin.
Dan Thompson, Dynegy's vice president of coal operations, said the upgrades created 2,000 construction jobs and took 4.5 million hours of labor to complete. He said the result will have a "tremendous environmental impact" on lowering emissions at the plants.
"We want to make sure we go beyond this," Thompson said. "We want to make sure we are a good corporate citizen."
These new controls meet the requirements under amendments to the federal Clean Air Act. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring compliance of all energy producers by 2015.
Dynegy Chief Executive Officer Bob Flexon, who joined the company 18 months ago and has overseen a recent operational and financial restructuring company wide, said Dynegy is the first energy company in Illinois to be in compliance with the new requirements.
He added that some coal plants have sought waivers seeking more time to implement changes to meet these new rules because they cannot afford to make this move under required time frames.
"We are providing cleaner power that is affordable and reliable," Flexon said. "It can only be done in a safe and environmentally sound environment with a significant investment."
Guests were led to the roof of the main building, where they could see Unit Scrubber 2, Unit Scrubber 3, the adjacent ash pond and the three 605-foot-tall emission towers. Visitors also saw the boiler room and toured the control room, which has been in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week since May 1, 1970.
They also saw coal cars being unloaded. As the train cars roll inside, each car is detached from the one in front and behind before being turned upside down as 120 tons of coal falls onto conveyer belts below. The heavy-duty machinery performs this task every two-and-a-half minutes on 200 cars a day.
Dynegy has converted from burning low-sulfur coal, and its investments in Illinois have led to a reduction in toxic nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions. Since 1998, emissions levels have dropped by 88 percent.
Dynegy has 602 employees in Illinois who earn $79 million in wages a year. The company's Illinois plants produce approximately 4,300 megawatts of power to wholesale customers in six states.
The Baldwin Energy Complex is Dynegy's largest power-generating coal plant in Illinois and has a net capacity of 1,800 megawatts. The Wood River plant can generate 465 megawatts, the Havana plant can produce 441 megawatts, and the Hennepin plant has a net capacity of 293 megawatts.
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.