In the energy industry, we don’t think in terms of years—we think in decades. Meeting demand requires long-term planning and a commitment to sustainability. At Prairie State, this kind of thinking also informs our approach to protecting the environment.
Because we plan to serve our members and their families for generations, we work carefully alongside environmental regulatory agencies to ensure we’re doing everything we can to provide cleaner power. Our operating permits come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and other federal, state, and local agencies.
Our success depends on meeting the permit requirements set forth by these agencies. By doing so, we ensure our ability to provide affordable, reliable, and clean energy for today—and for the many tomorrows ahead.
Our Sustainability Program
We believe being a good environmental steward is important to the longevity of our energy campus. We are constantly seeking ways to reduce our overall carbon footprint, while implementing sustainable business practices. Prairie State launched a campus-wide sustainability program in 2015 and has continued to grow this program year over year. Our efforts focus on beneficial reuse, campus-wide recycling, and carbon dioxide (CO2) offsets.
Through the advanced emission control processes in place at Prairie State, three coal combustion residuals (CCRs) are produced: gypsum, fly ash, and bottom ash. Power plants are not required to beneficially reuse coal combustion residuals (CCRs), but we recognize the importance this practice has on the environment. In addition to the avoided landfill costs of beneficially reusing CCR, there are also many environmental benefits, one of which is offsetting CO2 emissions.
Prairie State’s gypsum is also used as an agricultural soil amendment to improve the structure of clay-rich farm soils. Fly ash is used as a replacement for Portland cement in concrete. Using fly ash in concrete instead of Portland cement reduces CO2 production without compromising the cost or quality of the concrete. Bottom ash is beneficially reused for road construction and as an anti-skid application during inclement weather.
Coal Combustion Residuals
Any coal combustion residuals (CCRs) that are not beneficially reused are placed in our Near Field monofill. This facility is adjacent to our power plant, thus eliminating carbon emissions that would have otherwise been associated with transporting the CCRs off site.
Near Field is designed with a composite liner system to contain all CCRs; this liner consists of a three-foot thick compacted clay liner, a geosynthetic liner, and a leachate collection system. The clay compacted liner is constructed to strict compaction and moisture levels to meet permeability standards. Leachate is defined as any water that may come into contact with CCR material. Prairie State’s monofill captures and handles all leachate on site.
Importantly, Near Field is not located near any sources of drinking water. Monitoring wells were installed prior to construction of the monofill to establish a baseline water quality reading, and these wells remain in place for continual water inspection.
Stewards of the Environment
Prairie State has been recognized for its environmental stewardship efforts. In 2016, the HeartLands Conservancy awarded Prairie State with their Green Leaf Achievement award. HeartLands Conservancy is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with landowners, businesses, and community leaders to permanently protect the lands in southwestern Illinois. Each year, HeartLands recognizes outstanding contributions to the physical environment of local communities, and honors the exemplary sustainability and environmental stewardship achievements of regional businesses, organizations, and communities with its Green Leaf Achievement awards.