WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published September 28, 2010, 06:12 PM

Cleaning Up Coal

While renewable energy is the big push, 90 percent of North Dakota's energy comes from coal mined in the state. At UND's annual R and D showcase Tuesday, the Lignite Energy Council told the audience what the coal companies are doing to go green.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

Audiences here at UND's R and D show case are getting a chance to hear from a line-up of scientists speaking on a range of topics. One of them being clean energy.

"Challenges we see for wind power is that things like wind, I think is a great resource, but it's not dispatchable. You can't guarantee the performance of a wind turbine. Availability is only 30 to 40 percent," Michael Jones, Vice President of Research and Development for the Lignite Energy Council, said.

Jones says coal will continue to have a big role, even as renewable energy expands. He says coal-producing companies in North Dakota have spent $1.4 billion in the last three years on environmental controls.

"You can take down the sulfer levels, nitrogen levels, fine particles to almost any level you want to see. It's a cost issue is what it really is. And working now on separating CO2 which essentially eliminates all the streams that one sees," Jones said.

Jones say implementing that technology right now would likely double the price of electricity produced by coal. And with 90 percent of North Dakota's power coming from coal, that technology will have to get cheaper first. And there is time. Jones says at the present rate of mining, North Dakota has about a 200-year supply.