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The 2001 Power Plant Improvement Initiative

When U.S. consumers were confronted in 1999 and 2000 with blackouts and brownouts of electric power in major regions of the country, Congress responded by directing the Department of Energy to issue "a general request for proposals for the commercial scale demonstration of technologies to assure the reliability of the nation's energy supply from existing and new electric generating facilities…." The Congress transferred $95 million from previously appropriated funding for the 1986-93 Clean Coal Technology Program.

On February 6, 2001, the Energy Department issued a solicitation for proposals under the program it called the "Power Plant Improvement Initiative" (PPII). By the April 19, 2001, deadline, 24 candidate projects had been submitted for government cost-shared financial assistance.

On September 28, 2001, the Department selected eight projects valued at more than $110 million with $51 million requested from the federal government. Three projects withdrew during negotiations, and an additional project withdrew prior to completion. The remaining four projects were successfully completed. These projects included:

  • CONSOL Energy Inc., South Park, PA, demonstrated a multi-pollutant control system to reduce NOx, sulfur dioxide (SO2), mercury, acidic gases, and fine particles from smaller coal plants for less money than it costs to control NOx and SO2 separately. Among the innovations CONSOL installed at the AES Greenridge Power Plant near Dresden, NY, was a catalytic NOx reduction technology located inside the plant's ductwork, a low-NOx combustion technology that burns coal mixed with biomass, and a flue gas scrubber that was less complex and nearly half the cost of conventional systems. The government's share of the project was $14.3 million; $18.4 million provided by CONSOL and its project partners.
    Link to the Project Bibliography >
  • Otter Tail Power Company, Fergus Falls, MN, demonstrated a technology designed to capture up to 99.9999% of the fly ash particles emitted from a coal boiler. To achieve the high capture rate, the company integrated a fabric filter system (or "baghouse") with an electrostatic precipitator (which uses electrically charged plates to attract ash particles) in a single unit. The demonstration took place at the company's Big Stone Power Plant in South Dakota. The Energy Department's $6.5 million cost-share was matched by $6.9 million in private sector funding. This project has been completed. 
    Link to Project Bibliography >  
  • Tampa Electric Company, Tampa, FL, has applied (at its Big Bend Power Station in Appolo Beach, FL) a neural network system to determine when and how best to dislodge soot that can build up inside a boiler and degrade performance. While sootblowers are common in utility boilers, most are manually activated under preset rules or the operator's judgment. Computer controlled sootblowing technology will permit the cleaning of internal boiler surfaces with improved power plant performance. The project has received just under $1 million from the Energy Department with Tampa Electric providing almost $1.5 million.
    Link to the Project Bibliography >
  • Universal Aggregates LLC, South Park, PA, demonstrated a system that converts the sludge from power plant scrubbers into light-weight masonry blocks or concrete. Today more than 80% of this sludge is disposed of in landfills, and the practice is becoming an increasingly contentious public issue. This project in King County, VA, offered an alternative by turning a pollutant into a commercially-valuable product. The Energy Department funding was $7.2 million while the company provided $12.4 million.
    Link to the Project Bibliography >