Georgia Power announced March 29 that preparation activities are underway to permanently close all of the company’s 29 ash ponds located at 11 coal-fired facilities across the state.
Twelve ponds are scheduled for closure in less than two years; 16 are expected to close in less than 10 years; and one pond is expected to close in approximately 10-14 years. The utility has retired several coal-fired units in recent years due to clean-air regulations.
“Our primary focus throughout the closure process is maintaining a reliable generation fleet, while conducting the closure process in the most efficient way possible,” said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of environmental affairs for Georgia Power.
Ash pond closures are site-specific and involve complex processes that balance multiple factors such as pond size, location, geology and amount of material. The company must also ensure reliable electricity for customers during the significant construction work that will take place within each plant to accommodate the dry handling of Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) required by new federal regulations. The closure of all 29 ash ponds is expected to cost over a billion dollars over the next 10 years.
The company said it has worked with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) on the closure plan and will continue to work closely with the EPD throughout the closure process. Additionally, all ash pond closures will be certified by a professional engineer.
Approximately 50% of the coal combustion by-products Georgia Power currently produces are being recycled for various uses such as Portland cement, concrete, cinder blocks and drywall. In addition, the company has invested approximately $5 billion in new environmental compliance technologies for its surviving coal-fired generation fleet, which are reducing emissions.
Over the last five years, Georgia Power has safely retired or fuel-switched to natural gas approximately 4,000 MW of coal- and oil-fired generation and the company’s coal-fired generation capacity is now nearly half of what it was in 2005.
Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO).