What’s happened to acid rain?
If we don’t see it in the news, does that mean it has gone away?
Dear Control Engineering: How come we never read about acid rain in our newspapers anymore? Not even in Minnesota, land of 10,000 tree huggers. Tom D., retired control engineer.
As the graph from the U.S. EPA shows, acid rain reductions are a success story in that the amount has indeed declined for a number of reasons. Most relate to coal use, as sulfur content is the primary source. Here are a few specifics:
EPA regulations have worked in that they have driven utilities to install scrubbers and other remediation strategies. The Economist pointed out that 53% of coal-fired generating capacity now has scrubbers.
Utilities are closing older plants. For example, FirstEnergy just shut down a group of old coal burners in Ohio, and there are more on the hit list in other areas. That will raise the proportion of plants with scrubbers.
Coal-fired generation is declining overall. Ten years ago, coal-fired plants accounted for 52% of our electricity. Now that figure is 45%, and predictions suggest that downward trend will continue as natural gas and renewables grow.
As the Economist article notes, there are many more costs related to producing and burning coal than most people realize. There are technologies to mitigate the problems, but these are generally only installed at newer facilities. Getting over the problems will take time, but you may have more trees to hug.
Peter Welander, pwelander(at)cfemedia.com
Case Study Database
Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.
These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.
Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.