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Solar, anyone? Virginia coal ash excavation, recycling would cost billions

Coal ash is a problem that is not going away, and all utility companies that burn coal to generate electricity must deal with how to safely store and/or dispose of the byproduct. How costly could it be for Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest power provider, to excavate and recycle the 27 million cubic yards of coal ash it has stored at four plants in the state? Try $5.7 billion over 15 years, according to the power company’s research cited by the Chesterfield Observer.

The energy provider was mandated by the state legislature earlier this year to secure requests for proposals into how much it would cost to recycle its coal ash. Dominion also received a second proposal that would recycle about 45 percent of its coal ash over the same span and place the rest in lined landfills at a cost between $2.8 billion and $3.4 billion, the report notes.

Another potential way of disposing of the coal ash is by “capping in place,” which would mean draining the pond and covering it with a liner and soil. While that would be the most cost-effective way to deal with the issue, environmentalists concerned about the ash leaching into groundwater is why no moves have yet been made with regard to how to retire these ponds.

Coal ash ponds put energy consumers in a no-win situation. The least-expensive method of dealing with the ash could come with longer-term consequences. Excavation and recycling programs would cost into the billions, and those costs most likely would be passed on Dominion’s 2.5 million customers.

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