Water

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Water

Southern Company considers the impact of the system’s operations on water quality and availability, focusing on researching, developing and evaluating innovative technologies that address industry needs, while providing benefits to customers and the environment.

Southern Company is committed to responsible use and protection of all natural resources, including water, by meeting or surpassing all environmental laws and regulations. We consider the impact of the system’s current and future operations on water quality and availability, focusing on researching, developing and evaluating innovative technologies that address industry needs, while providing benefits to customers and the environment. We engage communities and relevant stakeholders to address specific water challenges at local levels and practice water stewardship beyond the system’s facilities.

 

History

For more than a century, water has played an important role in Southern Company’s development and corporate culture. James Mitchell, founder, first envisioned Southern Company’s future when he saw Alabama’s rivers. Southern Company was founded on developing Alabama’s waterpower resources to provide power across Southeast in a time when electricity was a luxury. Since then, Southern Company has relied on water even as other forms of power generation became necessary.

 

Water in Power Production

Water is used in a variety of ways in the production of electricity, its role changing based on the type of plant producing power. Water is often withdrawn from nearby sources such as rivers and lakes, and once used, is returned to its source. Southern Company and its subsidiaries work hard to determine the best water practices to continue providing customers with clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy while still meeting regulatory requirements specifically addressing availability and quality of water.

 

Withdrawal and Consumption

There is a critical distinction between withdrawal and consumption of water by a power plant. Withdrawal refers to water that has been brought inside the plant for various uses. Consumption refers to water that is evaporated or remains as moisture in coal combustion residuals (CCR) and therefore is not returned to water source. Consumption is simply the difference between water withdrawal and water returned to the source.

In 2016, the system reduced surface water withdrawal by 21 percent compared to 2015. Over the past six years, approximately 93 percent of the water withdrawn has been immediately returned to the source, where it is available for downstream use.

Southern Company System Southeastern Service Territory Generating Facilities by Watershed Location

The Southern Company system’s southeastern electric retail service territory possesses abundant surface waters, significant lengths of coastline and diverse wetland systems ranging from bottomland forests along river floodplains to longleaf pine savannas and coastal marshes. In addition, groundwater from principal aquifer systems plays a major role in providing water for public supply and industrial and agricultural uses. The Southern Company system's fossil, hydro and nuclear generation facilities are widely distributed in watersheds throughout the southeastern service territory.

Plant

County

State

Watershed Location

Nameplate Capacity (MW)

Primary Fuel Type

Fossil

Watson

Harrison

MS

Biloxi Bay

901

Gas

Sweatt

Lauderdale

MS

Chickasawhay River

39

Gas

Kemper

Kemper

MS

Chickasawhay River

582

Gas

Daniel

Jackson

MS

Pascagoula River

2,070

Coal, Gas

Chevron Cogen

Jackson

MS

Pascagoula River

147

Gas

Miller

Jefferson

AL

Black Warrior River

2,640

Coal, Gas

Gorgas

Walker

AL

Black Warrior River

1,021

Coal

Greene County

Greene

AL

Black Warrior River

1,220

Coal, Oil, Gas

Washington County

Washington

AL

Tombigbee River

123

Gas

Bowen

Bartow

GA

Etowah River

3,160

Coal, Oil

Hammond

Floyd

GA

Coosa River

800

Coal

Gadsden

Etowah

AL

Coosa River

120

Gas

Gaston

Shelby

AL

Coosa River

1,900

Coal, Oil

Harris

Autauga

AL

Alabama River

1,319

Gas

GE Plastics

Lowndes

AL

Alabama River

105

Gas

Barry

Mobile

AL

Mobile River

2,370

Coal, Gas

Theodore

Mobile

AL

Mobile Bay

236

Gas

Crist

Escambia

FL

Escambia River

970

Coal

Pea Ridge

Santa Rosa

FL

Escambia Bay

15

Gas

Smith

Bay

FL

St. Andrew Bay

890

Coal, Oil, Gas

McDonough

Cobb

GA

Chattahoochee River

2,599

Oil, Gas

Wansley

Heard

GA

Chattahoochee River

2,852

Coal, Oil, Gas

Yates

Coweta

GA

Chattahoochee River

700

Gas

Franklin

Lee

AL

Chattahoochee River

1,858

Gas

Addison

Upson

GA

Flint River

669

Gas, Oil

Scherer

Monroe

GA

Ocmulgee River

3,272

Coal

Robins

Houston

GA

Ocmulgee River

158

Oil, Gas

Dahlberg

Jackson

GA

Oconee River

756

Gas, Oil

McManus

Glynn

GA

Turtle River

482

Oil

Wilson

Burke

GA

Savannah River

354

Oil

McIntosh

Effingham

GA

Savannah River

2,122

Coal, Oil, Gas

Boulevard

Chatham

GA

Savannah River

20

Oil, Gas

Rowan

Rowan

NC

Yadkin River

986

Gas, Oil

Cleveland County

Cleveland

NC

Broad River

720

Gas, Oil

Oleander

Brevard

FL

St. Johns River

791

Gas, Oil

Stanton

Orange

FL

Econlockhatchee River

659

Gas, Oil

Nuclear

Farley

Houston

AL

Chattahoochee River

1,720

Nuclear

Hatch

Appling

GA

Altamaha River

1,796

Nuclear

Vogtle

Burke

GA

Savannah River

2,320

Nuclear

Hydro

Smith (Dam)

Walker

AL

Black Warrior River

158

Hydro

Bankhead

Tuscaloosa

AL

Black Warrior River

54

Hydro

Holt

Tuscaloosa

AL

Black Warrior River

47

Hydro

Rocky Mountain

Floyd

GA

Oostanaula River

215

Hydro

Weiss

Cherokee

AL

Coosa River

88

Hydro

Henry

St. Clair

AL

Coosa River

73

Hydro

Logan Martin

Talladega

AL

Coosa River

135

Hydro

Lay

Chilton

AL

Coosa River

177

Hydro

Mitchell (Dam)

Chilton

AL

Coosa River

170

Hydro

Jordan

Elmore

AL

Coosa River

100

Hydro

Bouldin

Elmore

AL

Coosa River

225

Hydro

Harris

Randolph

AL

Tallapoosa River

132

Hydro

Martin

Tallapoosa

AL

Tallapoosa River

182

Hydro

Yates (Dam)

Tallapoosa

AL

Tallapoosa River

47

Hydro

Thurlow

Elmore

AL

Tallapoosa River

81

Hydro

Morgan Falls

Fulton

GA

Chattahoochee River

17

Hydro

Langdale

Harris

GA

Chattahoochee River

1

Hydro

Riverview

Harris

GA

Chattahoochee River

0.5

Hydro

Bartlett's Ferry

Harris

GA

Chattahoochee River

173

Hydro

Goat Rock

Harris

GA

Chattahoochee River

39

Hydro

Oliver

Muscogee

GA

Chattahoochee River

60

Hydro

North Highlands

Muscogee

GA

Chattahoochee River

30

Hydro

Flint River

Dougherty

GA

Flint River

5

Hydro

Lloyd Shoals

Butts

GA

Ocmulgee River

14

Hydro

Wallace

Hancock

GA

Oconee River

321

Hydro

Sinclair

Baldwin

GA

Oconee River

45

Hydro

Estatoah

Rabun

GA

Tennessee River

0.3

Hydro

Burton

Rabun

GA

Tugaloo River

6

Hydro

Nacoochee

Rabun

GA

Tugaloo River

5

Hydro

Terrora

Rabun

GA

Tugaloo River

16

Hydro

Tallulah Falls

Rabun

GA

Tugaloo River

72

Hydro

Tugalo

Habersham

GA

Tugaloo River

45

Hydro

Yonah

Stephens

GA

Tugaloo River

23

Hydro

 

Issues and Challenges

Because of the significant role water plays in power generation, Southern Company addresses all issues including, but not limited to:

 

Cooling Water Intake Structures

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) final rule establishing standards for reducing effects on fish and other aquatic life caused by new and existing cooling water intake structures at power plants and manufacturing facilities became effective in October 2014. Implementation of the rule will be based on site-specific factors. National Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued after July 14, 2018, will begin including conditions to implement and ensure compliance with impingement mortality and entrainment standards, including any measures needed to protect federally-listed threatened and endangered species and designated critical habitat.

Southern Company supports reasonable regulations that consider the great variation of impacts from plant to plant. The company continues to research technologies, including fish-return systems and "fish-friendly" or modified traveling screens, to minimize the impact of power plant intake structures on aquatic life.

Thermal Impacts

Different types of cooling water systems at thermoelectric power plants involve trade-offs between consumption of water and potential impacts to local aquatic ecosystems from discharged water, which becomes heated in the cooling process. The discharge of heated water is subject to the Clean Water Act and addressed as part of the NPDES permitting process.

Where thermal discharge, e.g., heat, issues are involved, the Southern Company system has either demonstrated alternative thermal-effluent limits can assure the protection of a balanced, indigenous aquatic community or has implemented solutions involving retrofits with closed-cycle cooling. Managing thermal discharge issues in the future will require that water needs of the growing population and ecosystems are balanced with the availability of water supplies and storage capacity for closed-cycle cooling.

Wastewater Discharges

The Clean Water Act, through NPDES permitting, controls water quality by regulating point source discharges into U.S. waterways. Southern Company system power plants have water discharge permits for pH, suspended solids, oil and grease, chlorine, temperature, iron and other parameters. Typical permitted discharges include cooling water, ash ponds, coal pile runoff ponds, low volume wastes ponds, sump overflows and oil/water separators. These points are monitored and sampled periodically in accordance with permit requirements.

Certain EPA regulations, called effluent guidelines, address materials discharged by thermoelectric power plants. EPA published revisions to the steam electric effluent guidelines in November 2015 regulating wastewater discharges primarily associated with coal combustion byproducts, such as coal ash and scrubber wastewaters. The revised limits and compliance dates will be incorporated into renewals of NPDES permits. Southern Company seeks to ensure compliance in the most cost-effective and efficient manner, while providing continued protection of water quality and aquatic resources.

 

Leveraging Technology in Water Management Cooling Systems

There are many kinds of cooling systems usable to power plants depending on their water withdrawal functions. Because Southern Company plants use water to produce power in different ways, there are a variety of cooling systems utilized.

 

Wet Cooling (Once-Through and Cooling Tower)

Wet cooling systems withdraw water to absorb heat via indirect contact with steam in a condenser. These systems are divided into two types based on the way the cooling water is used: once-through systems and closed-cycle systems with cooling towers or ponds.

Because of its relative simplicity, the capital and operating costs for once-through cooling systems are usually less than those for closed-cycle cooling systems with a cooling tower. But because once-through cooling operates with water passing through the system only one time, it requires a large amount to be withdrawn, almost all of which is returned to the original source.

Dry Cooling and Hybrid Systems

Dry cooling systems transfer heat to the atmosphere without loss of water through evaporation. Cars, for example, use a form of dry cooling (the radiator) to control engine temperatures. A hybrid system incorporates elements of both wet and dry cooling systems to maximize the benefits of each. These types of systems can reduce some evaporation over time by reducing the amount of time the wet cooling tower is in service. Neither dry cooling nor hybrid systems are currently considered an economically viable option for the Southern Company system.

Thermal Impact of Once-Through Cooling Technologies

The Southern Company system has 10 power plants [MMT1] with once-through cooling that withdraw and return approximately 3.5 billion gallons per day from lakes, rivers and estuaries. Once-through cooling is highly efficient as plants withdraw surface water, pass it through the condenser to cool steam and return the water to the original source.

Southern Company System Thermoelectric Cooling System Source and Type

Plant

Source of Cooling Water

Type of Condenser Cooling

Alabama Power

Barry Units 1,2,4,5

Freshwater

Once-Through and Cooling Tower

Barry Units 6-7

Recycle

Once-Through

Gadsden

Freshwater

Once-Through

Gaston

Freshwater

Once-Through and Cooling Tower

Gorgas

Freshwater

Once-Through

Greene County

Freshwater

Once-Through

Miller

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Theodore

Municipal Water

Cooling Tower

Washington County

Groundwater

Cooling Tower

Georgia Power

Bowen

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Hammond

Freshwater

Once-Through

McDonough

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

McIntosh Unit 1

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

McIntosh Units 10-11

Recycle

Cooling Tower

Scherer

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Wansley

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Yates

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Gulf Power

Smith Unit 3

Recycle

Cooling Tower

Crist Units 4-5

Brackish

Once-Through with Helper Cooling Tower

Crist Units 6-7

Municipal Wastewater

Cooling Tower

Mississippi Power

Daniel Units 1-2

Freshwater Cooling Pond

Once-Through

Daniel Units 3-4

Freshwater Cooling Pond

Cooling Tower

Kemper 1

Municipal Wastewater

Cooling Tower

Sweatt

Groundwater

Cooling Tower

Watson Units 3-4

Brackish

Once-Through with Helper Cooling

Watson Unit 5

Brackish

Cooling Tower

Southern Nuclear

Farley

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Hatch

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Vogtle

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Southern Power

Harris Units 1-2 CC

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Franklin Units 1-3 CC

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Nacogdoches

Freshwater

Cooling Tower

Stanton Unit A CC

Municipal Wastewater

Cooling Tower

Rowan Unit 4 CC

Municipal Water

Cooling Tower

 

Environmental Controls

Throughout the Southern Company service area, environmental controls are utilized to reduce air emissions and produce cleaner energy paving the way to a healthier future. While there are many environmental control systems, Southern Company relies most heavily on Flue-gas desulfurization systems (FGDs), also called scrubbers, and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology to reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Finding Solutions through Research

The Southern Company system and its partners are continuously working to find solutions to current and future issues involving water conservation technologies and initiatives. In 2012, Southern Company opened Georgia Power’s Water Research Center at Plant Bowen. This center is the first-of-its-kind research hub working to develop and evaluate power plant water-management technologies. The resulting research is innovating water conservation and consumption initiatives for the future of the electric generation industry.

 

External Water Drivers

Many other uncontrollable factors affect and influence water resources. These external factors can be societal factors such as population growth or federal environmental regulations and also weather conditions such as drought, floods and other extreme weather conditions. Over the years, Southern Company has adapted to such conditions, developing systems to withstand these kinds of changes.

 

Risk

The World Resources Institute Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas is a publicly available database and mapping tool that provides information on water-related risks worldwide. Aqueduct uses 12 global indicators to provide companies, investors and other audiences with information about geographic exposure to water-related risks. The Aqueduct Water Risk Framework uses research, data and hydrological modeling techniques. Indicators are provided in three categories of water risks: physical risks (quantity), physical risks (quality) and reputational and regulatory risks. None of the system's steam electric generating facilities are in the high-risk category.

 

Stakeholder efforts

Southern Company establishes strong partnerships and stewardship programs which work to preserve local, natural resources. These initiatives cover state water planning and environmental stewardship and education to ensure availability of reliable freshwater supplies to meet the region’s power needs.

  • State Water Planning: Southern Company works with state and region officers to plan water resource and regulatory processes.
  • Environmental Stewardship and Education: Through stewardship programs, Southern Company leads various in-company and external collaborations to conserve wildlife and natural habitats.