San Juan Generating Station
San Juan Generating Station provides power to more than 2 million customers in the southwestern and western United States as well as serving as the primary source of power for its parent company, PNM. Located 15 miles from Farmington, New Mexico, the coal fired generating plant consists of four units producing 1,800 gross megawatts, enough to provide electricity to about a million homes. The facility is ranked as the seventh-largest coal fired generating station in the western United States.
Built in 1973, in an era when asbestos was recognized for its value as insulation for thermally demanding equipment, the San Juan power station likely utilized asbestos to insulate its high heat machinery and piping. The power plant has undergone several upgrades to reduce the asbestos in the facility as well as to update pollution control and emissions equipment. San Juan Generating Station underwent a four year environmental upgrade to improve federal standards for visibility. Completed in 2009, the $320 million upgrade significantly reduced the plant’s emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury.
San Juan Generating Station plays a role in the economy of the Four Corners area. Almost 400 employees work full time at the power plant, providing an annual payroll of more than $40.5 million. The plant pays royalties and taxes in excess of $60 million annually to governments and tribes, while $150 million is spent on materials, supplies, and services.
The plant burns about 6.6 million tons of coal every year from a local mine, and like all coal-burning plants, San Juan has been criticized for its emission of air pollutants. In 2006, San Juan was the 35th most polluting plant in terms of carbon dioxide emission and the 18th in terms of nitrous oxide. Since then, the plant has been fitted with electrostatic precipitators designed to filter particulate matter out of the exhaust, along with low-NOx burners to reduce the amount of nitrous oxide released into the atmosphere. These systems help San Juan meet or exceed both federal and state emissions requirements.