AES Puerto Rico power station
AES Puerto Rico power station is a 510-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station in Guayama, the state of Puerto Rico, United States.
The map below shows the location of the power station in Guayama, the state of Puerto Rico, United States.
The AES power station started generating power in 2002 for the Puerto Rico Energy and Power Authority (PREPA), under a 25 year contract. AES had submitted its application for the power plant in 1995, and the EPA (Region II) authorized the plant's construction in September of 1998. This plant was the first coal-fired power facility built in Puerto Rico, and generates 9% of the island's electrical generating capacity. Both units are subcritical and rely on bituminous coal for energy production; AES currently imports around 1.7 million tonnes of coal from Colombia to fuel the plant. The company AES currently supplies 25% of Puerto Rico's consumed energy.
In 2020, the director of AES in the Caribbean said that, in line with Puerto Rico's goal of relying solely on renewable energy by 2050, AES was looking to propose an investment of $600 million to convert its plants from thermal to renewable power generation, and that they were in talks with PREPA to conduct these changes. This investment would be an addition to the approximately $40 million the company has already invested to improve the AES power station. Given this commitment, the coal plant is expected to become a renewable generator in the future (likely after the PREPA contract ends in 2027). Investment into making these changes has already begun and is expected to be finished in 2023.
AES currently owns and operates the plant, but they contracted the company Fluor to provide the design, engineering, procurement, construction (EPC), and commissioning services for this facility. According to Fluor, the plant cost $800 million to design and build.
The power station utilizes circulating fluidized-bed (CFB) combustion, an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), and a circulating dry scrubber to reduce pollution emission levels. The CFB captures residual sulphur dioxide (SO2) while reducing the production of nitrous oxide (NOx); its design was based on a power plant in Donghae, South Korea. The ESP controls for other types of particulate emissions, while the dry scrubber also reduces SO2 emissions. The air emissions control system for the AES power station uses selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) to reduce NOx emissions. Fluor also employed “Zero Liquid Discharge Technology” to recycle wastewater and conserve water.
Citizen Action & Pollution Concerns
For more on this topic, see AES (section "Puerto Rico and Coal Ash").
The AES power station is known for its coal ash pollution, which is created as a toxic byproduct of burned coal and contains high levels of toxic chemicals. The AES power plant generates around 300,000 tons of coal ash each year. The issue has generated large controversy, even prior to the construction of the coal plant. Although AES pledged in 1996 (before the plant's commission), that it would not deposit coal ash in Puerto Rico's landfills, in 1998, three petitions from Puerto Rican citizens were filed against the original permit for AES challenging the permit issued by the EPA to AES Puerto Rico. All of the petitions were denied review by the EPA. To avoid dumping coal ash in Puerto Rico, AES then shipped thousands of tons of coal to two communities in the Dominican Republic. Local doctors reported health issues in those areas, and the government of the Dominican Republic filed a lawsuit against AES, stating the company had dumped 82,000 tons of coal ash along several beaches. AES was obligated to pay $6 million in a legal settlement with the Dominican Republic’s Environmental and Natural Resources Agency and clean up the area.
To avoid dumping the ash, AES then created a construction product called Agremax, which used coal ash as a filler to build roads, parking lots, malls and more. Throughout Puerto Rico, around two million tons of coal ash were used in construction, including in sites near public water wells, farms, wetlands and beaches. The issues of fugitive dust and other impacts caused environmental groups to sue. Agremax was retired from the construction market in 2014 after losing customer interest.
In 2012, many environmental activists and residents in nearby neighborhoods began placing pressure on the government to resolve this problem, notably lawyer and activist Ruth Santiago, who sent a notice of intent to sue. After much public pressure, in 2017, Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello signed a law which prohibited the deposit and disposal of coal ashes or coal combustion residues in Puerto Rico, while preventing the ash from being stored on the island for more than 180 days.
Furthermore, in 2017, a sample from the five groundwater wells in AES Puerto Rico were taken. Three of the wells were found to be polluted above federal advisory levels, with unsafe levels of sulfate, molybdenum, boron, lithium and selenium. (See here for a longer list of pollutants present at the site.)
- Sponsor: AES
- Parent company: AES
- Location: Guayama, the state of Puerto Rico, United States
- Coordinates: 17.9456, -66.1494 (exact)
- Coal type: Bituminous
- Coal source: Imported from Colombia
- Gross generating capacity (operating): 510 MW
- Unit 1: Coal-fired subcritical, 255 MW (start-up in 2002)
- Unit 2: Coal-fired subcritical, 255 MW (start-up in 2002)
Articles and Resources
- "Casa | AES Puerto Rico". www.aespuertorico.com (in español). Retrieved 2021-05-12.
- EPA (May 29, 1999). "In re AES Puerto Rico, L.P." Environmental Law Reporter. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
- "AES Solid Fuelled Power Plant - EPC". Fluor. 2021. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
- EIA (November 19, 2020). "Puerto Rico Territory Energy Profile". US Energy Information Administration. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
- Segarra, Christian (June 19, 2020). "AES Makes Multimillion-Dollar Investment in Puerto Rico". The Weekly Journal. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
- "Puerto Rico's first coal plant will be among the world's cleanest". Modern Power Systems. September 5, 2002. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
- Coto, Danica (April 6, 2010). "Environmentalists criticize use of coal ash in Puerto Rican construction projects". SF Examiner. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
- Lloréns, Hilda (December 8, 2016). "In Puerto Rico, environmental injustice and racism inflame protests over coal ash". Conversation. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
- CBS News (February 7, 2020). "Toxic coal ash is making its way to Florida from Puerto Rico. Experts warn of its adverse health effects". CBS News. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
- Funes, Yessenia (July 5, 2017). "Puerto Rico Ends Toxic Dumping of Coal Ash, But Increases Its Commercial Use". Colorlines. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
- Environmental Integrity Project (May 28, 2020). "AES Puerto Rico". Ashtracker. Retrieved May 11, 2021.