Georgia Power is embarking on a landmark project to excavate millions of tons of coal ash that is stored at Plant Bowen near Cartersville for use in concrete to construct bridges, roads and buildings across the state.
It is the single largest beneficial use project for coal ash in the U.S. and the largest ever for Georgia Power.
“Georgia Power is always researching and exploring new and innovative ways to reuse coal ash that is beneficial to our customers and our communities,” says Aaron Mitchell, the company’s vice-president of environmental affairs. “Finding and securing these opportunities to beneficially use coal ash will not only reduce and save space in landfills, but will also serve as a financial tool to help offset the cost of ash pond closures for our customers.
“As the largest project of its kind in this country, this project at Plant Bowen is historic for our company, and our entire industry, and we see the potential to expand beneficial use projects further in the future.”
Eco Material Technologies, the leading producer of sustainable cementitious materials and cement replacement products, is managing the project at Plant Bowen, including the end use of the excavated coal ash. The company is the leading marketer and distributor of fly ash and has a patented technology to convert fly ash and other materials into near-zero carbon building materials.
Georgia Power recently partnered with Southern Company Research and Development and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to open a coal ash research facility at Plant Bowen, known as the Ash Use Beneficial Centre. The center is a collaborative project with other electric power utilities through EPRI, an independent, non-profit organization with members in 35 countries.
The new facility will host pilot projects and lead continued testing of technologies to potentially further develop useful products from recycled coal combustion products such as coal ash. Specific activities at the center will include reviewing ways to optimize coal ash characteristics to better fit commercial applications, speeding and facilitating development of emerging beneficial-use technologies, understanding performance of reuse products and developing realistic cost profiles.
“As a part of our ash pond closure efforts, Georgia Power is always looking for opportunities to use coal ash that are not only beneficial to our customers, but for our communities and environment,” says Mark Berry, vice-president of environmental and natural resources for Georgia Power. “The Ash Beneficial Use Center is paving the way for the latest coal ash technologies. We hope to see closed ash ponds and landfills become resources as new and improved uses are developed and proven through this center.”
Infrastructure installation to accommodate the work at Plant Bowen has begun, with ash removal expected to begin by 2024. Approximately 600,000 tons of ash per year will be removed from the ash pond and landfill at Plant Bowen. The final amount of coal ash harvested and used under the project is expected to be nine million tons in total.
Coal ash has been proven to add strength and durability to concrete. George Power says using the coal ash instead of storing it also helps reduce the need for raw materials otherwise used in production.
“As the largest partnership of its kind in the U.S., this project will not only use material from landfills and ash ponds, but also keep millions of tons of CO2 from going into the atmosphere,” says Grant Quasha, CEO of Eco Material. “The harvested material will be used in concrete to make stronger and longer lasting bridges and roads and serve as a model for helping forward thinking utilities like Georgia Power and Southern Company to close landfills and ash ponds, while building a greener and more sustainable planet.”
Georgia Power said in a statement it is seeking to identify more opportunities for the beneficial use of coal ash stored at active and retired coal-fired power plants across the state. The utility intends to partner with qualified participants to ensure innovative and cost-effective solutions are selected as part of ash pond closures.
“As concrete manufacturers continue to work to achieve carbon neutrality in production, and power companies seek modern and innovative solutions for beneficial use of coal ash, this voluntary project in Georgia is a model for the industry, directly responding to both market and environmental needs,” notes Tom Adams, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association. “With the nationwide focus on improving American infrastructure including roads and bridges, demand for materials continues to outpace available supply, and collaborative projects such as this will be critical to bridging that gap in the future.”