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Earth2Tech Maps: Coal Power Plant Deathwatch

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Earth2Tech has its ongoing “Ethanol Deathwatch” series but it seems that proposed coal power plants are seeing an equally bad mortality rate these days. Citizen action groups and U.S. regulatory committees have taken note and are compiling lists of withdrawn or blocked coal-fired proposals. In Texas alone, the acquisition of TXU Corp. has scuttled plans for 8 new coal power plants.

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We’ve been combing through lists and reading reports from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and configured this map of coal-fired power plants that have been nixed over the last two years. So far we’ve charted 21 projects in 15 different states amounting to over 16 gigawatts of power (note: this does not include the TXU plant cancellations).

The world’s energy needs are growing rapidly, particularly in India and China, so coal, being one of the cheapest options, is attractive. In May NETL announced there were 151 new plants proposed, while they say 145 gigawatts of coal-fired powered will supposedly be needed by 2030 to meet energy consumption demands. But by October NETL had lowered that number of proposed plants to 121. Given coal is such a dirty energy source, it’s climate change repercussions are starting to be taken into consideration when deciding on whether to build new coal-power plants.

Utilities are having more difficulty getting their proposed plants built, due to the growing concerns about the effects of global warming, as well as the promise of coming carbon regulation. Additionally, the costs of constructing the plants is going up as India and China’s appetite for coal is sucking up the world’s engineering expertise and materials. India and China added 930 megawatts and 90 gigawatts in 2006 respectively. This is in contrast to the U.S.’s addition of 600 megawatts in the same period.


We wanted to give some thanks to several sites we read while compiling this research:

Palang Thai
Invisible Green Hand
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana

36 Responses to “Earth2Tech Maps: Coal Power Plant Deathwatch”

  1. buntarno

    We are an IPP in Jakarta, Indonesia.
    We need a cancelation coal fired power plant of 2 x 15 MW.
    Pls. send a proposal, address, person in chg.

  2. Turn the lights out go back to the stone age climate change has been changing for thousands of years look at ice core samples. clean coal technoligy is here wake up

  3. Help Great Falls, MT stop their coal fired power plant. Montana makes plenty of power for our own consumption plus plenty to export. We don’t need more coal power!

  4. Green energy is definitely the best solution in most cases. Technology like solar energy, wind power, fuel cells, zaps electric vehicles, EV hybrids, etc have come so far recently. Green energy even costs way less than oil and gas in many cases.

  5. Craig Rubens

    Hello again everybody. I wanted to draw your attention to a new post Katie has written. She was part of a media conference call with global warming researcher and, oddly, coal-power proponent James Hansen yesterday.

    Hansen had some interesting things to say. Take a look at the post, it’s not long but Hansen has a few good points.

  6. Craig Rubens

    Thank you everyone for the new information and lively debate! Keep the information coming! I’ve added the closed and canceled facilities some of you suggested and am looking for more details before adding some more, so please keep the information coming and please keep checking back. Also, Ted Nace, you’re project looks amazing, keep up the good work.

    And if you liked this map, check out our new map on biofuel plant closings: Biofuels Deathwatch Map.

  7. Here’s the corrected link to the coalSwarm wiki:

    Anyone is welcome to post info there on the coal boom. Because this new wiki is part of SourceWatch, one of the largest wikis on the web, postings generally go to the top of the Google que. Entering “coal moratorium” into Google, for example, will take you to the coalSwarm article.

    coalSwarm is also building a comprehensive database of all known coal plant proposals in the United States. That list is at

  8. For carbon and nuclear free alternative to coal plants and for generation that can’t be satisfied with aggressive efficiency programs, our country can look to Concentrating Solar Power, or using sunlight and mirrors to produce the steam that would otherwise be produced by burning coal or splitting atoms in a nuclear power plant. All we have to do is boil water and we have enough solar resource to boil the water and produce dispatchable steam generated electricity to run the country many times over.

    For areas outside of the southwest we can learn to ship electrons long distance over high voltage DC lines instead of trying to ship coal to places like Ohio from Wyoming over our decrepit railroad system. Besides, there is only 15-25 years worth of coal available from existing mines in Wyoming (the single largest source of coal for the United States) and coal mine expansion will be both expensive and contentious.

    For more information on Concentrating Solar Power try one of the following sites

    Utilities around the southwest have caught on to Concentrating Solar Power and have realized that it is proven, carbon-free and either cost competitive or close to it.

    An increasing number of southwest utilities are moving ahead with CSP projects. Now we just need the rest of the country to make the paradigm shift of “shipping electrons instead of shipping coal” to boil water, produce electricity and keep our economy running.

    Continuing down the coal path is a dead end for geologic and economic reasons–even if climate change wasn’t threatening the function of the only planet we know that supports life.

  9. One more thing: the coal industry has been telling us they will make more efficient plants for 50 years, with very little progress. The simple truth is that when coal is converted to electricity, two-thirds is lost as heat — AT THE PLANT SITE. Amory Lovins (Scientific American, Sept 2005) said that 3% of the electricity generated by coal plants actually reaches an outlet, after mining, transportation, heat loss and transmission are taken into account.

    I believe 75% of our railroads are used to cart around coal! This is crazy. We are getting close to world peak production on resources like oil and natural gas, and we shouldn’t be using them to dig up coal and make even more pollution delivering WY coal to Georgia.

  10. Mapmakers: please add Xcel Energy’s proposed IGCC plant in Bent County to the “cancelled or on hold” list (Xcel says “on hold” but I’d bet money it will never get built.)

    Injecting liquids has been proved to cause seismic activity. The US Army Corps injected 165 million gallons of liquid toxic waste from the Rocky Mtn Arsenal in the 1960’s, causing 1,500 seismic events btwn 1962-67 — three above Richter 5.

    Lou: please check your facts. Germany gets 12% of its energy from renewables right now. Colorado just did a report that the state has 96 GW potential for wind and 26 GW potential for central solar — and using only 2% of the sunniest and most suitable land. Thermoelectric power contaminates huge amounts of water. Georgia is experiencing a huge drought — and as many Georgians hopefully know by now, coal and nuke plants use a whoppping 67% of Georgia’s water supply.

    Let’s get smart — and get going!

  11. Your blog is fantastic! We’re building a wiki on coal called coalSwarm. It would be great if you would post your list on the wiki — an article on Cancelled Coal Plants would be great. Or if you’re too busy, please send along anything and I’ll get it posted.

  12. Nancy is correct, however, the longer we put off building the new, cleaner more efficient coal plants, the longer the inefficient, dirty plants have to remain on line. We’re facing the same issue in nuclear plants, oil refineries, and gas-fired plants. We block the construction of better technology forcing us to rely on outdated, dirtier production.

    It would be nice to use alternative energy, but open-space advocates block solar production and when you put it in remote areas, the cost of transmission takes it out of cost effectiveness. The open-space people are joined by wildlife protectors to block wind generators.

    We’re the only country that hasn’t figured this out yet. France gets 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear. China puts out prefab nuclear plants. Outside of Munich is a huge wind turbine next to a nuclear plant.

    We’re more interested in promoting our pet positions than compromising and creating a solution. Let’s start talking and stop chest beating.

  13. Facts: coal-fired power produces 40% of all CO2, 33% of all mercury and 66% of acid rain. In some states like Ohio, EVERY body of water is contaminated with mercury. One in ten (some studies say one in six) women of child-bearing age in the U.S. have so much mercury in their bodies that she is at risk for having a child with serious neurological disorders.

    Acid rain is a problem that is only getting bigger.
    According to Peabody, coal use soared 30% in the past 5 years (2001-2006), and will increase dramatically over the next couple of decades.

    Coal mining wastes are the largest waste stream in the U.S., and coal combustion wastes are second.

    U.S. coal peaked a few years ago in terms of BTU (heat value) per pound — meaning that we need to burn more coal for the same amount of heat/electricity.

    2/3 of a coal plant’s energy is lost as waste heat.

    Nine IGCC (aka “clean” coal) plants have been cancelled or put on hold according to Emerging Energy Research, Oct. 5, 2007, “TECO, Nuon Cancellations Underscore IGCC’s Woes.” Since the report was issued, 2 more IGCC’s have been cancelled: Colorado and Orlando, for a total of at least eleven cancelled IGCCs. The Orlando plant is notable bc it rec’d $235 million in federal funds, which it must now return.

    These plants are NOT economic; and although CO2 can be “captured”, the entire process, from capture to compression to transportation to re-pressurization to storage — is enormously expensive and risky.

    Renewable energy is cost-compeititive. Xcel Energy’s recently submitted Colorado Resource Plan estimated these capital costs:
    – wind-$1645/kW (with Production Tax Credit);
    – wind-$2,000/kW (no PTC);
    – concentrating solar with 6 hrs thermal storage-$2572;
    – IGCC with 50% capture-$3912/kW;
    – pulverized coal, dry cooled with 50% capture-$3688/kW.

    Energy efficiency is 1-3 cents/kWh!,3080,1-1-1_41994_45385-42116-2_68_135-0,00.html -(go to Vol. 1, p.1-55)

    WE CAN DO BETTER! Do we want to leave our children a nightmare world of rising oceans, ever-larger wildfires, increasing hurricanes, and coastal cities under water? How about drought, crop failure and heat waves? Why go there, when it’s cheaper to go with wind and solar?

  14. Folks are forgetting about the existing coal-fired plants. Most of the plant owners snuck around the EPA requirements with special interest legislation. There are more modern scrubbers available that can solve most of the problems while alternatives are found.

    It’s time to force electric companies to improve the cleanliness of the output of existing plants. I’m betting that very few of them meet current standards… they don’t have to, but that could be changed if Congress has the political will.

    The scrubbing process, if improved, could remove CO emission until better alternatives are found. It won’t be cheap. Expect to see electric bills increase.
    None of this has an overnight solution.

    In the meantime, with all the cancelled coal plants, how is the nation going to cope with increased demands for electricty due to economic growth?

    Conservation alone may not be the answer.

  15. Hopefully some of these cancelled coal plants will be replaced with nuclear power plants instead. Yes, nuclear is controversial, but overall, an easier problem to pass on to our grandchildren than an atmosphere choked with too much CO2.