Clean Coal

Navajo Generating Station Page Arizona

On a cold and cloudy day, billowing steam from the giant 2,250 megawatt coal-fired Navajo Generating Station gives the impression that this otherwise pristine desert landscape just outside Arizona’s Glen Canyon Recreation Area is really an industrial wasteland. On a clear day, though, the steam and fog dissipate to reveal majestic red rock buttes and a yellowish band of smog drifting downwind from the plant as far as the eye can see.

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20 Comments on “Clean Coal”

  1. Animalcouriers January 30, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    Such a great shame that we have come so far in most areas of life but are still relying on fossil fuels.


  2. karinschiller January 30, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Despite the pollution … this photo looks like the shape of a ship 🙂


    • Brian January 30, 2013 at 11:42 am #

      True. Or it could be of some fantastical steam engine chugging through the desert southwest.


  3. mairedubhtx January 30, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    I suppose they have to rely on some sort of furl. Too bad it has to be on this form of polluting fossil fuel.


  4. Melinda Green Harvey January 30, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    It’s a damn shame to see those smokestacks cluttering up the landscape.


  5. Debra Kolkka January 30, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Is it just steam billowing from those chimneys or filthy smoke?


    • Brian January 30, 2013 at 11:46 am #

      What you see in this photo is steam. The photo I wanted, but did not get, was of our first sighting of the plant. No steam, just a long trail of yellowish smog hovering over an otherwise deserted landscape.


  6. deniloritsch January 30, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    The realistic balance of modern life.


  7. Betty Londergan January 30, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    Bletch!!! Did they really have to put the smokestacks right where they’d be most visible next to the buttes? I hate to see pollution hanging in the air, and there are such good scrubbers and cleaners available it seems like we should be able to do better. Clean coal — what a misnomer! But at least we’re not living in Beijing …. right?


    • Brian January 30, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

      Hi Betty. The Navajo station is “scrubbed” for pollutants; as much as is required by the EPA at least. So I was surprised to see the degree to which airborne pollutants were still visible from such a facility.


  8. Huw Thomas January 30, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Great picture but I’m not sure I’d call it ‘clean’. Even if it is just steam that we see, what about the huge volume of CO2 also being released.
    I know it’s a cloudy day in the picture but how many sunshine hours does Arizona get? I’m sure photovoltaic arrays and wind turbines would be just as effective if the political and economic will was there (not just the usual vested interests).


    • Brian January 30, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

      Sarcasm is notoriously difficult to convey through the written word. Rest assured that that was my intent here.


  9. Luddy's Lens January 30, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    Ugh. Powerful photo, though.


  10. louisva January 30, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Clean coal is an oxymoron. If we had started doing something in the 1970s when we first had long lines in gas stations, imagine where we could be now? Brazil has a fascinating story to tell – I do not know the data without searching but they have almost complete independence from fossil fuels by using switchgrass as a bio-fuel. This weed is not in the food chain so there is no effect on crop prices. Seems as if we could do something similar with Kudzu (the scourge of the south) that can grow 18 inches per day and also would not affect crop prices. Using corn has caused a price increase so we need something we do not eat!


  11. cravesadventure January 30, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    What a Cool Capture – thanks for sharing!


  12. Barbra & Jack Donachy January 30, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    Many people still don’t seem to understand the connection between coal-fired plants and the fact that virtually every lake in the contiguous 48 states is so toxic with mercury fish consumption advisories have been put into place. See your state’s Department of Natural Resources pages or Fish and Wildlife website for more information.


  13. Staci January 31, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Such a dichotomy. Great shot.


  14. hermitsdoor February 3, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    I believe that the coal for the Navajoh plant comes from Black Mesa, not too far away (though the Hopi would prefer that the coal stay in the mesa… that is another element of being culturally clean). The degree of “cleanness” of coal depends on how much carbon is in the stuff and how many other impureities, especially sulfur are released with burning. That physics is beyond me, though I heard an explanation once. Something to do with adding neutralizing chemicals that bound up the nasty stuff in “scrubbers”. In the USA, the cleanest coat is in the Dakotas. Living in WV, we hear a lot about clean coal technology being researched. That is because we have lots of sulfur in our coal viens. Another issue about clean coal, is not the coal itself, but how close it is to the power plant. The further that you have to transport it, the more energy (usually diesel fuel in trains and ships) is used. Another irony of WV coal is that while our local politicians talk about “bringing US energy independence” through mining, most of our coal is so unclean that we send it to China. That is a long way to transport it. The smoke then crosses back over the Pacific toward our western coasts. There’s my rant!


  15. supremeicon March 25, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Love the composition of the photo. Illustrates the “starkness” Very nice


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