We strive to maintain an open dialogue with all of our stakeholders and we take their concerns seriously. Following are some of the more prevalent concerns we heard in 2009 and our responses.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) viability and risk:
CCS has been proven to work in small scale applications. A 1 megawatt (MW) pilot plant and a 10 MW plant are operating today and achieving their targets. At 100 MW, Project Pioneer increases the testing tenfold. The next step to follow Project Pioneer would be a 1,000 MW application, which is full commercial scale production.
We believe if we cannot retrofit the world’s existing coal generation capacity the world will never reach its long-term CO2 reduction targets. We remain confident CCS will work. The same geological formations that kept gases and fluids in place will also safely secure the CO2 captured by Project Pioneer. Once injected, CO2 will be trapped in tiny pores within the storage rock far below the earth’s surface and it will be separated from usable groundwater by thick, impermeable barriers of dense rock.
Geological storage projects have already stored millions of tonnes of CO2 for many years, without detectable leakage. Projects in Saskatchewan and Norway have safely stored 15 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 in depleted oil fields and deep, underwater, saline formations without leakage. Just like natural gas is today, CO2 can be transported long distances at low-cost. Extensive CO2 pipeline networks have been safely in use in the United States for more than 25 years.
Every new renewable power generation technology is subsidized. Ultimately, that is not sustainable, but as an industry, we are in the early stages of developing the technologies and infrastructure needed to reduce our CO2 footprint, and we need all the technologies and support possible. It’s too risky and early to pick winners and losers among the options. To put this in perspective, for Project Pioneer, government participation is approximately $80 per tonne. Current solar subsidies are nearly $400 per tonne and even wind still receives nearly $50 per tonne. CCS support is less costly than other carbon reduction technologies and receives a relatively small portion of the technology grants for CO2 reduction.
Alternatives to CCS to meet carbon targets:
We believe without CCS, global CO2 reduction targets won’t be met. It is not possible to reduce demand, increase energy efficiency, or build enough renewables or nuclear plants in a reasonable time frame. Just as importantly, most renewables do not deliver on the two fundamental principles of the electricity system: reliability — renewables tend to produce intermittently as they are dependent on nature; and low costs — all remain more costly than coal plants and most natural gas plants. Coal plants combined with cost-effective CCS technology have the potential to overcome those two barriers.
Wind farms and human health:
Prior to any wind mill placement, TransAlta conducts a thorough impact assessment to understand potential effects on landowners and surrounding communities in order to take appropriate steps to mitigate any adverse impacts. We would not jeopardize the health of residents in these areas and the latest research by an independent panel of experts from the fields of audiology, acoustics, otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), occupational/environmental medicine and public health conclude that there is no evidence wind turbines have any direct adverse health or physiological consequences.