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Water Resources

2012 Corporate Responsibility Report


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  • How we use water

    Water is a shared natural resource that is vital to the production of electricity at many power plants. Power plant water use varies significantly with the type of generation. Typically, power plants that use a steam turbine to produce electricity (also known as steam-electric plants) are the largest water users on a per megawatt-hour basis.  However, it should be noted that use does not mean consumption, as many plants use water for cooling but then return it to the source.

    Historically, heated water from the steam-condensing process was discharged back into the source water body, such as a river or lake, from which it was withdrawn. Typically, more than 95 percent of the cooling water was returned for these once-through cooling systems.  However, to minimize potential impacts on fish and to reduce thermal discharges, a few older plants and all new plants built since 1977 use closed-cycle cooling systems.  Examples of closed-cycle cooling systems include cooling towers or off-stream cooling ponds. As compared to once-through cooling systems, closed-cycle cooling systems withdraw significantly less water from rivers or lakes, but consume (through evaporation) significantly more water.

    Additional operational uses of water include:

    • Transporting coal fly ash and bottom ash at some of our coal-fired power plants;
    • Controlling SO2 emissions via wet scrubbers;
    • Controlling the formation of NOx in combustion turbines; and
    • Providing potable water for human consumption and for sanitary purposes.
  • Innovations in water management

    We are committed to being good stewards of natural resources and are focused on innovative, responsible, community-based solutions to protect the water resources critical to our operations. For example:

    • We are partnering with the city of Crystal River, Fla., and the Southwest Florida Water Management District to build the infrastructure necessary to receive reclaimed water from the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The reclaimed water will help reduce the use of groundwater by our Crystal River Energy Complex. 
    • Our Hines Energy Complex has also been chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy as a test site to evaluate the ability of constructed wetlands to provide cooling and makeup water for thermoelectric power plants. This project is being led by Applied Ecological Services Inc. and involves the construction of up to 50 acres of wetlands in 2012.
    • We are the first company in Florida to build and operate more than 2,000 MW of generation using primarily alternative water supplies. The Hines Energy Complex uses treated domestic wastewater from the city of Bartow, Fla., as makeup supply to the plant’s cooling pond. The plant also uses a water-cropping system across the 8,000-acre site to capture, store, manage and use stormwater as makeup supply to the cooling pond and is developing the ability to reuse treated industrial wastewater from adjacent industries being currently discharged to surface waters. These forms of recycling help to conserve groundwater that supplies area drinking water.
  • Constructed wetlands and bioreactors for scrubber effluent treatment

    The flue gas desulfurization systems, or scrubbers, on coal-fired boilers at several plants use water as part of the process to remove contaminants from the air. This resulting effluent must be treated before the water can be reintroduced into the environment. Through collaboration and extensive research, we identified two innovative technologies to provide treatment in an environmentally responsible manner:  constructed wetlands and a bioreactor system.

    • Constructed Wetlands – Constructed wetlands are being used to treat FGD wastewater at our Asheville Plant in Buncombe County, N.C. These wastewater-treatment systems, which use a combination of plants, microbes and soils preceded by conventional physical/chemical processes, are considered sustainable and environmentally friendly. The wetlands system removes greater than 90 percent of mercury and 85 percent of selenium from the water.
    • Bioreactor – We led the transfer of an innovative bioreactor technology to the FGD wastewater treatment industry. The GE ABMet® bioreactor system is a biological treatment process using naturally occurring, nontoxic, nonpathogenic microbes preceded by conventional physical/chemical processes. The microbes treat the FGD wastewater streams, using a biodegradable nutrient solution as the microbes’ food source. The bioreactor system is designed to produce minimal sludge and remove more than 95 percent of selenium and more than 90 percent of mercury. This system is installed at our Roxboro and Mayo plants in Person County, N.C.
  • Groundwater monitoring

    Both Progress Energy Carolinas and Progress Energy Florida maintain a groundwater monitoring program to ensure the protection of public health and safety. In the Carolinas, monitoring wells have been installed around all of our active coal ash storage facilities and data are collected and analyzed on a regular schedule throughout the year. In Florida, we maintain a series of monitoring wells at several generation sites and test them regularly. All of our data are shared with the appropriate state regulatory agencies.

  • Conservation in our corporate offices

    The Carolinas and much of the Southeast have experienced several droughts in recent years. After the most recent, Progress Energy took action to drastically improve water conservation at its seven Raleigh facilities. These actions resulted in saving more than 2 million gallons of water in 2008. The company has continued its conservation efforts through 2011.

    • The company has continued to add low-flow aerators and low-flow flush valves at its facilities across the Carolinas and Florida.
      • The company now captures water used in weekly, mandatory tests of the company’s fire pumps and uses it to water plants or power wash buildings as needed.
    • The company’s facilities group also made changes to Progress Energy’s main building’s HVAC system. The group has updated the HVAC’s chemical feed system to reduce the amount of water lost in the building’s cooling tower. The company is also collecting the condensate from the cooling tower and recycling it.

    In addition, our Florida headquarters building, Progress Energy Place, was built with a number of water- and energy-conservation technologies. The building, which opened in 2006, uses low-flow toilets and sinks as well as automated on/off controls for the sinks. The building also has 100 percent solar hot water heating, which provides up to 1,200 gallons of hot water each day. The building continued to perform well in 2011.

  • Green Building

    Progress Energy has embarked on a green building program for future facilities. In Florida, Progress opened the first Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver project at our Wildwood transmission facility. We also are building a new facility at the Crystal River Energy Complex that will be LEED Silver when certified.  In the Carolinas, Progress Energy opened up a new Raleigh operations center, which will be a LEED Silver facility when certified.  In addition, the renovation of the downtown Raleigh headquarters building will achieve a LEED Silver certification for commercial interiors when the project is completed in early 2013. 

    One area of focus during LEED construction activities is the recycling or reuse of construction debris. In preparation for the new Raleigh operations center (located on U.S. Highway 1), two old buildings were demolished onsite; the majority of materials were recycled, and the concrete foundation and driveways were crushed to establish the construction entrances and lay down yard base of the new building.  As part of the renovation of the Progress Energy Building in downtown Raleigh, more than 80 percent of the demolition debris is being recycled, including all carpeting, sheetrock and ceiling tile. Additionally, the old furniture from the building will be repurposed in Progress facilities across the Carolinas.

  • University of Florida Water Institute

    The University of Florida Water Institute was created through a partnership with Progress Energy to develop sound, science-based solutions to global water problems. The institute hosted its third symposium in February 2012, and brought more than 450 experts from a variety of institutional affiliations, disciplines and personal interests together to discuss challenges to sustainable water resources in Florida and beyond.