Gaston Steam Plant

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The E. C. Gaston Steam Plant is a 5-unit coal fired plant with a combined output of 1,880 megawatts owned by Alabama Power located at 31972 Alabama State Highway 25 on the shore of Lay Lake, which is part of the Coosa River, near Wilsonville in Shelby County. It is named for Earnest Gaston.

Construction of the plant by Southern Electric Generating Company (SEGCO), a joint venture by Alabama Power and Georgia Power, was begun in the late 1950s. The first unit was placed into commercial service in May 1960 with Unit 2 following in July. Unit 3 went into service in 1961, Unit 4 in 1962, and finally Unit 5, the largest by far, in 1974.

In 2009, a report by the Environmental Integrity Project listed the plant second for the amount of arsenic deposited in on-site ash ponds and landfills from 2000 to 2006.

Unit 5 is the site of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Post-Combustion Carbon Capture Center (PC4), which is part of the larger National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) to develop and test technologies for carbon capture and storage, managed and operated by the Southern Company. According to the DOE in 2011, the unit is in steady operation and capturing about 10 tons of carbon dioxide per day.

In January 2013, a report by the Environmental Integrity Project listed the plant as the second largest source of mercury pollution in the nation. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it emitted 1,244 pounds of mercury in 2011. Alabama Power responded that it had reduced mercury emissions at the plant 40% from 2007 to 2011. Further, work is underway to convert the plant's four smaller units to natural gas by 2015, which typically contains almost no mercury. The company also plans to install a baghouse on Unit 5 by 2016. When completed, the company predicts mercury emissions from the plant to be reduced by 90 percent from the plant's peak.

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