||What is a peaker power plant?
||New peaker power plants being proposed in Illinois
use turbines that burn natural gas to produce electricity. They are
called peaker power plants because they are generally run only when
there is a high demand, known as peak demand, for electricity. In
Illinois, this occurs during the summer months when air conditioning
load is high, and the nuclear and coal burning power plants cannot
meet the demand for power. Peaker plants generally run only during
peak periods when utilities will pay higher prices for electricity
because it is more expensive to produce electricity by burning natural
gas. Peaker power plants cannot compete with the cost of electricity
produced by nuclear and coal burning power plants.
Where are these plants being built?
||In general, the plants are being located where large
capacity power lines and gas pipelines cross or are in close proximity
to one another.
||Are these facilities regulated by the Illinois
||Yes, the Illinois EPA administers rules that limit
the air emissions and, if present, direct water discharges from peaker
power plants. The Illinois EPA does not have the authority to consider
other issues related to the siting of a proposed facility, (e.g. need
for a proposed power plant, aesthetics, etc.) during permitting.
||What will be the health impact of a peaker power
plant to people living around the facility?
||The evaluations of new peaker power plants for which
the Illinois EPA has received permit applications to date have indicated
that the plants will not have a measurable impact on air quality.
If a source does not have a measurable impact on air quality, there
should not be a health impact. To confirm that proposed plants would
not impact air quality, the Illinois EPA has been asking all peaker
power plants to submit air quality modeling even though this is not
expressly required by the rules for minor sources.
||What does the Illinois EPA review in a permit
||Permit applications are reviewed to determine whether
the information presented in the application shows compliance with
applicable rules. Permits are prepared with detailed conditions that
identify applicable rules and require appropriate testing, monitoring
and recordkeeping to verify compliance with applicable rules.
||These plants will emit almost all of their emissions
over a small number of days during the summer. Why can’t they be considered
major sources under the federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration
||The proposed peaker power plants whose potential annual
emissions are below the applicability thresholds of the federal PSD
rules are not subject to PSD because the rules define "major sources"
in terms of annual emissions from a proposed new source, not monthly
or daily emissions. However, as noted above, the Illinois EPA is requiring
applicants for "minor" peaker plants to perform air quality impact
modeling as if the plants were subject to PSD. The Illinois EPA also
has exercised its discretionary authority and is holding public comment
periods for all proposed plants before taking final action on a permit.
In addition, the Illinois EPA will continue to review the situation.
||Can the Illinois EPA place a moratorium on the
issuance of permits to peaker power plants?
||The Illinois EPA does not have the legal authority
to impose a moratorium on the issuance of permits to peaker plants.
In fact, the Illinois EPA is required to process the permit application
for a new plant within 180 days.
||Does the Illinois EPA have some say in the location
of these facilities?
||The Illinois EPA does not have a role in the local
siting process. Currently there is no state siting requirement for
these types of facilities, in contrast to new pollution control facilities
such as landfills or wastewater treatment plants. However, even the
siting provisions for pollution control facilities leave the decision
to the local government in which a proposed facility is to be built.
||Can the Illinois EPA issue a permit for a new
power plant prior to the company getting zoning approval from the
||Yes, the Illinois EPA’s decision is totally separate
from local zoning decisions. Illinois EPA’s approval of a permit does
not mean that the proposed power plant should be granted local zoning
approval, and conversely local zoning approval does not mean that
a plant will be issued a permit by the Illinois EPA. The Illinois
EPA’s decisions are based upon the air (and, in certain instances,
water) pollution control regulations. Local zoning is based upon
other factors including impacts on land use, property value and the
||If a company gets a permit from the Illinois
EPA, can the company build even without local approval?
||No, the company must build on a location that is appropriately
zoned for a power plant. In some cases, the location is already zoned
for a power plant; in other cases, the company must obtain a special
use approval to build a power plant. In either case, the Illinois
EPA's permit does not have any bearing on the local zoning decisions.
||If a proposed plant has a permit from the Illinois
EPA, does that mean that the facility is "ok" and the local municipality
must give the company approval to build?
||Absolutely not. The role of the municipality is different
from the Illinois EPA’s role. The local municipality must decide whether
a proposed facility is appropriately planned and sited, given its
role in local land use management.
An issued permit is stating, in effect, that the company’s application
shows compliance with the state and federal Air Pollution Control
regulations. It is not stating that the facility will comply with
other requirements or standards, including local zoning.
||Even though the Illinois EPA is not involved
in zoning, doesn’t the Illinois EPA take into account proximity to
residential areas when issuing a permit?
||As a practical matter, environmental permitting rules
assume that all facilities are being built in residential areas even
if an area is currently agricultural or industrial in character. As
a result, the Illinois EPA's review of the permit is independent of
local land use.
||How can we be sure that these plants won't run
||Although the Illinois EPA's permits do not limit the
plants to running only during the summer, they do have limitations
on how many hours the plant may be run during the year or how much
fuel they can burn. The Illinois EPA monitors facilities’ compliance
with their permit conditions and if violations are found undertakes
||These plants would run when ozone air quality
is the worst. How can the Illinois EPA allow new peaker plants to
locate in the Chicago ozone nonattainment area where air quality is
already "bad" during the summer?
||Illinois has made substantial progress in improving
ozone air quality in the greater Chicago area, reducing both the
extent and magnitude of exceedances of the ozone air quality standard.
These new peaker power plants should not interfere with continuing
reductions in ambient ozone levels and attainment of the ozone air
quality standard. While these plants do emit nitrogen oxide (NOx)
which is a precursor to formation of ozone, reductions in NOx emissions
are occurring from existing sources such that a substantial decrease
in overall ambient concentrations of NOx is occurring in the area.
Moreover, the new plants must meet stricter emissions requirements
than older plants. In this regard, it should be noted that because
ozone is formed by chemical reaction in the atmosphere, the emissions
from the new plants will participate in ozone formation many miles
downwind rather than at the point at which they are emitted. However,
the downwind impacts are being addressed through a national strategy
that will include all power plants. In any case, NOx emissions from
the new plants would be contributing only a very small part of the
overall loading of ozone precursors.
||Does the permit issued to a peaker power plant
regulate noise levels?
||While the state's noise regulations establish property-line
limitations for noise levels, they do not require sources to obtain
permits. Nevertheless, we advise facilities such as peaker power plants
to utilize noise abatement technology. While the Illinois EPA does
not directly enforce the noise regulations, local authorities are
empowered to do so, and the Illinois EPA provides technical assistance
as necessary. The contact person for noise at Illinois EPA is Greg
Zak, who can be reached at 217-782-3397.
||What pollutants does a peaker power plant emit?
||The pollutants emitted by peaker plants are the pollutants
associated with burning of natural gas for any purpose. The greatest
emissions from peaker plants are nitrogen oxides (NOx). Other pollutants
emitted include carbon monoxide and, in much smaller amounts, particulate
matter, volatile organic material, and sulfur dioxide. These pollutants
at proposed levels have no meaningful impact on air quality. NOx emissions
from new peaker power plants are minimized by the use of low-NOx burners
or water injection into the burners. The low rate of NOx emissions,
combined with excellent dispersion, means that the plants would generally
have no measurable effect on local NOx air quality.
||Will these plants burn any fuels other than natural
||Some of the peaker power plants are being developed
with the ability to burn distillate fuel oil. This will allow these
particular plants to operate when natural gas is not available. This
could be especially useful in the winter time, when natural gas supplies
are being used for heating, if a peaker must be called into service
as a result of an unexpected outage of an existing power plant.
||Who can I contact for more information?
||For more information on emissions or permitting status
of peaker power plants in Illinois, contact:
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
1021 North Grand Avenue East
P.O. Box 19506
Springfield, IL 62794-9506
217-782-9143 - TDD phone number
1-888-372-1996 (please leave a message)
||For more information about this or other
fact sheets contact:
||Public Information Officer
Illinois EPA, Bureau of Air
1021 N. Grand Ave. East, Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
217-782-9143 - Hearing impaired