Coal-fired generation investment will exceed that of gas, nuclear, solar or wind according to the latest forecasts in the McIlvaine continually updated Fossil & Nuclear Power Generation: World Analysis & Forecast.

India and a number of other Asian countries will be investing far more in coal-fired power generation than in alternatives. Carbon sequestration is not planned for the vast majority of the planned power plants. However, there will be many ways that coal-fired power plants will become green.

  • Use the low pressure steam for co-located industries rather than waste it in a cooling tower cycle;
  • Make byproducts such as hydrochloric acid, sulfur, ammonium sulfate and gypsum;
  • Replace old inefficient coal-fired power plants with 30% efficiency with 45% efficient ultra-supercritical power plants; and
  • Co-locate desalination and municipal wastewater treatment plants with coal generators.

The Spiritwood Plant of Great Rivers Energy is an example of how green coal can become. The coal-fired power plant will use municipal wastewater for cooling; the low pressure steam will be used for grain drying and for the production of cellulosic ethanol. The residue from the cellulosic process can then be used to replace some of the coal in the steam generation.

One of the problems in maximizing co-location of ethanol and municipal wastewater treatment plants is the need to change the design to take advantage of low pressure steam. In the case of cellulosic ethanol, the use of steam at lower temperatures than are optimum will require larger process equipment. In the case of municipal wastewater treatment plants, there needs to be a re-design to take advantage of plentiful low cost heat to accelerate the biological processes and dry the sewage sludge.