As waves wash up onto the nearby shore, the sounds of spinning turbines and ejected steam fill the air at the Encogen Generating Station located on the Bellingham waterfront. The Encogen Cogeneration Plant is a combined-cycle combustion system, which means that both natural gas and steam are used to spin turbines, allowing the plant to produce upwards of 50 percent more power than a simple-cycle plant that strictly uses natural gas .
Although natural gas is not a renewable resource, how do power plants such as Encogen remain environmentally sustainable as the world pushes towards a greener future?
To answer this question we researched how the Encogen Generating Station works, as well as what measures are taken to remain environmentally conscientious. Encogen Generating Station works by burning natural gas, which then spins turbines that generate electricity. The steam from that combustion process is harnessed and used to spin a second turbine, creating even more power. At peak times, during the winter, the plant is capable of producing 185 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power 130,000 homes.
It is known that fossil fuels are not a renewable resource, so how does Encogen remain green? Over the past few years, Encogen has reused more steam and water than it did in the past, reducing its use of water by over 5 million gross domestic product (GDP). This allows Puget Sound Energy to generate more electricity and to reduce the amount of steam and water waste released into the surrounding environment.
The Encogen Generating Station also takes daily, monthly, and annual steps to remain as efficient as possible. On a daily basis, power-plant workers perform preventative maintenance on the plant -- much like you would on a car -- to ensure everything runs effectively. In addition, Encogen recently changed its machinery to run more efficiently, replacing new catalytic reduction units and air filters. Measures are taken to reduce pollutants released into the air and groundwater by reusing steam to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions and by sampling and treating any water that leaves the plant.
Although the world is moving away from natural gas and towards renewable resources, it is important to realize that this change cannot be made overnight. Power plants like Encogen use natural gas to stay in operation until power from a renewable source can replace what is generated by the fossil fuels. However, steps are taken to ensure that the plant runs as sustainably as possible.
It is also important to realize that steps can be taken to reduce your own power consumption, such as switching to LED lights when older light bulbs burn out, turning off appliances and lights when not in use, purchasing energy-efficient options, and doing research on how to be efficient.