Ghent Generating Station

The Ghent Generating Station is located on a 1,700-acre site near Carrollton, Kentucky about halfway between Louisville and Cincinnati, Ohio. The station, owned and operated by Kentucky Utilities (KU), is fueled exclusively by coal. The four generators in operation at Ghent Station have a total capacity to produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity.

Ghent Station began operating in 1973. The plant is the newest facility owned by KU. It is also the largest coal-fueled power plant owned by the company. Ghent Generating Station is responsible for producing nearly half of all of KU’s electricity. The Ghent Station is considered to be on the cutting edge of coal power plant technology. Production and emissions controls are routinely studied by representatives from a number of world powers, including Russia, China, and South Africa. Less than 230 employees are required to run the plant at maximum efficiency.

Ghent Station uses a number of systems to reduce pollution. Each of the four generator units has an electrostatic precipitator installed to remove solid particulate matter from the gaseous emissions. Monitoring systems are installed on all three smokestacks to ensure air quality standards are in compliance with state and federally mandated levels. In 1994, a scrubber was installed on Ghent Station’s Unit 1. This reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide from the unit by 90 percent. The scrubber and connected monitors use over five miles of fiber optic lines to send data through the system. Each of the three smokestacks can handle 50 percent of the emissions produced at the plant so a spare stack and monitor is always available.

Despite this technology, as a coal-fueled power plant, Ghent Station produces high quantities of emissions. In 2006, the station released 12.9 million tons of carbon dioxide, 49,900 tons of sulfur dioxide, 14,300 tons of nitrogen oxide, and 413 pounds of mercury. However, due to the controls put into place, emissions levels are much lower than from many other coal power plants of a similar size.

Emissions may not be the only health hazard posed by Ghent Station.  Many power plants built in the 1960s and 1970s, as Ghent was, incorporated large amounts of asbestos into construction and insulating materials.  This helped a plant’s machinery operate effectively at high temperatures, but when the materials broke down, they released tiny, needle-like fibers into the air where they could be breathed in.  Many former power plant workers are now suffering from diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma thanks to years of unwitting asbestos exposure.