Improving Air Quality in Georgia
Georgia Power has a long history of reducing emissions from our power plants while still meeting the ever-growing demands of one of the fastest-growing states in the United States. Since we are always striving to balance environmental requirements with growing energy needs and the economy, additional emissions controls and reductions are in the works and will be completed during the next several years. As a result of this solution, Georgia Power is in the midst of a more than $5 billion environmental construction program to equip our power plants with the latest environmental controls to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.
Georgia Power's environmental investments have decreased emissions of sulfur dioxide by more than 90 percent, nitrogen oxides by more than 85 percent and mercury by more than 90 percent.
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
What is it?
SO2 comes from the sulfur found naturally in coal when it is burned in a boiler to produce electricity.
While early reduction in SO2 began in the mid-1990s resulting from the purchase of lower-sulfur coals, dramatic reductions resulted in the past several years as the result of installing "scrubbers" on our largest coal-fired power plants. Scrubbers are systems that remove SO2 through a chemical reaction with limestone that produces gypsum - a material that has several uses, such as the production of wallboard or fertilizer.
Georgia Power pioneered scrubber technology for power plants in the 1990s with a system installed at Plant Yates Unit 1. The company has since installed scrubbers at plants Bowen, Hammond, Wansley and Scherer, and now all of Georgia Power's large coal-fired power plants are scrubbed.
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
What is it?
NOx emissions result from the combustion of any material, including coal, gasoline, natural gas or even leaves in your yard.
Georgia Power has made significant investments to reduce its emissions of NOx through the use of various technologies, including low NOx burners, natural gas injection and combustion air controls. Since 1990, Georgia Power has reduced its NOx emissions by more than 85 percent. To achieve these results, Georgia Power installed and operates selective catalytic reduction systems (SCRs) at coal-fired plants Bowen, Hammond, Scherer and Wansley, as well as natural gas-fired plants McIntosh Combined Cycle and McDonough Combined Cycle.
The SCRs are similar to catalytic converters in vehicles. They work by adding ammonia to the emissions exiting the unit, where a catalyzed chemical reaction breaks down the nitrogen oxide into harmless nitrogen and water.
What is it?
Mercury is a trace impurity in coal that is released when coal is burned.
The combination of scrubbers (to reduce SO2) and SCRs (to remove NOx) also removes significant amounts of mercury at coal-fired power plants. In addition, Georgia Power operates baghouses to reduce mercury at Plant Scherer. Baghouses act as enormous vacuum cleaners to filter out solid particles. At Plant Scherer, mercury binds to activated carbon that is injected ahead of the baghouse. The baghouse then captures the activated carbon particles, resulting in a reduction in mercury emissions. At Plant Scherer, the emission gases are filtered through 20,000 fabric bags that are 26 feet long and approximately 5 inches around.
These systems have reduced Georgia Power's mercury emissions by more than 90 percent since 2007. Georgia Power has also installed additional mercury emission controls at many of our power plants in response to the Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.Back to Top ↑