Tag Archives: green solutions

From the Desk of the Utility CEO

The CEO in the corner office of any large organization has a lonely existence.

CEOs of utilities may feel even more isolated – but it’s not mandatory.

The energy industry is steadily evolving beyond fossil fuels and shifting to more renewable and sustainable sources. This is fantastic news for the planet, but before this transformation can be complete, we must address the fossil fuel legacy of nearly 2 billion tons of coal ash stored in inefficient and environmentally perilous ways all over the United States.

The buck for this state of affairs sits squarely on the desk of the utility CEO, while the pressure to provide answers pours in from all directions: political forces, environmental groups, ratepayers, internal managers, the board of directors and major investors.

Large companies usually establish methods and infrastructure with adequate manpower and resources to handle legacy CCR issues. But as new methods come to the market to deal with CCR more efficiently — yes, it happens — existing infrastructure may find itself calcified, too set in its ways. (“This is how we’ve always done it.”) Instead of being able to nimbly change course and adapt, it fractures or even collapses under the pressure.

Early CCR deposition strategies have relied on the “Cap-In-Place” method. However the science behind it, which CEOs and their teams have traditionally believed to be “the safest” is, in fact, unable to support the environmental and business risks that approach entails.

With that option now off the table, the buck flies back to the CEO whose job is to lead the way by forging a middle path that will satisfy all stakeholders going forward.

The first — and easiest — question a CEO might ask is, “Is there another one solution to fit all?”

The answer to that is easy. It’s no. (That was destroyed in the last Avengers movie.)

Without another simple strategy like good old out-of-sight-out-of-mind cap in place, the next logical area to explore is hybrid approaches.

It’s the way of today and the future to pursue multiple solutions that all contribute to the goal of proper CCR deposition.

The good news is that CEOs who can present multiple solutions to their boards, internal managers and external stakeholders dramatically increase their negotiating power and chances of success by having more than one card to play.

It seems hard to believe that groups around the country have been wrestling with this issue of what to do with legacy CCR for almost 11 years. The nation is making progress. We’ve realized that cap in place is virtually never the answer, and we’re developing alternatives. However, most of the work is yet to be done, and dealing with 2 billion tons of anything can take decades, but we have to start somewhere.

CEOs have the resources, tools and stature to jump-start any CCR deposition project by considering all their options so they can guide stakeholders toward wise decisions and action.

Next, we’ll step away from the corner office and consider the perspective of stakeholders who have been locked in CCR trench warfare for over a decade.

CCR Innovation Series: Part 1 of 3

K.I.S.S. Applies to Coal Ash Solutions

Imagine a community facing the dual crisis of severely dwindling solid waste disposal capacity at the same time its electric utility has been ordered by a federal judge to excavate and move a hazardous legacy coal ash pond to a lined landfill.

Unfortunately, this isn’t fantasy. Nashville, Tennessee, is one such example of a community wrestling with these issues today. The two problems may seem unrelated, but technology exists to make them part of each other’s solution if you look at the big picture and think creatively.

On the solid waste side, Tennessee’s largest landfill, Middle Point, which serves Nashville and many other localities, will run out of capacity in eight to nine years based on current daily volume, according to its owner. Outside observers believe any number of unforeseen events could increase volumes and force closure in as few as five years. Reasons include a recycling rate well below the national average and a building boom from the economic recovery that’s generating an over-abundance of waste.

One solution proposed for when the landfill closes is to truck the waste to other landfills in Kentucky and Tennessee, incurring the expense of long-distance hauling.

As for the coal ash, about 14 million cubic yards of it sit in an unlined pond at Gallatin, with potential to leach arsenic, mercury and lead into the Cumberland River. A federal judge has ordered the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to excavate the coal ash and move it to a lined landfill. Because there’s little evidence that the river has been affected so far, although groundwater issues do exist near the pond, opponents of the ruling say the excavation order is disproportionately harsh and to cap in place would be sufficient.

One innovative solution to help alleviate both problems is to move some of the coal ash to Middle Point for use as fill in macroencapsulated berms around the landfill. This would extend the landfill’s life by years and render the coal ash completely inert and harmless.

Murfreesboro and Gallatin are about 45 miles apart, so that’s how far the coal would have to travel. Solid waste would continue to go exactly where it’s always been, with no interstate hauling required.

Cost-effective remedies for TVA Gallatin’s problems are close at hand with innovative thinking. Cap in place isn’t an option; proper CCR deposition is required. So why not keep it “local” and put it to beneficial use wherever possible?

Macroencapsulation fills the judge’s requirement for a lined repository, and innovation, when applied, can solve multiple problems for all stakeholders. When the private sector works with public entities to find mutually beneficial solutions that can be implemented in the simplest and most direct ways, everybody comes out ahead.

EnCAP-IT’s safeBERM® solutions is Awarded Twelfth Patent

RICHMOND, Va., January 8, 2019 – EnCAP-IT is pleased to announce that today, the twelfth patent was issued to EnCAP-IT (Patent No. 10,174,477) entitled, Reinforced Wall System from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the core technology behind its state-of-the-art safeBERM® solutions.

See Press Release

See Patent