BIRMINGHAM - Billy Zemo, a senior engineer at Alabama Power`s Gadsden Steam Plant, and Doug Boylan, a research engineer at Southern Company in Birmingham, have won a national award from the California-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) for work in a groundbreaking project that is using renewable switchgrass with coal at the Gadsden plant.
Zemo and Boylan captured EPRI`s 2001 Technology Transfer Award for helping spread the word about the environmentally friendly switchgrass project among utility industry leaders and others. Initial tests show that using switchgrass, a native prairie grass that grows well on marginal farmland, with coal can reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury. The ongoing project, which has drawn interest and visitors from across the globe, suggests that switchgrass has strong potential as a renewable energy source.
The switchgrass project also just won the annual Industry Excellence Award from the Atlanta-based Southeastern Electric Exchange (SEE). Jack Eastis, a research specialist at Southern Company in Birmingham, joined Zemo and Boylan in the environmental category award. Alabama Power also took Second Place in the environmental category for a wetlands project at the Gorgas Steam Plant in Walker County. That project has shown that constructed wetlands could be used effectively to treat rainwater runoff from the plant`s main coal pile.
The EPRI award was announced last month during an institute meeting in San Antonio. The SEE award will be formally announced in June at the association`s annual conference in Orlando.
EPRI, established in 1973 and headquartered in Palo Alto, manages science and technology projects for the energy and energy services industry worldwide. EPRI has helped fund the switchgrass project, along with Alabama Power, Southern Company and the U.S. Department of Energy. Southern Research Institute and Auburn University also contributed to the study.
SEE is a nonprofit trade association that represents investor-owned utilities across the Southeast and as far north and west as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. The association was founded in 1933.
Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company, (NYSE: SO), is committed to providing reliable, affordable power to its more than 1.3 million customers while continuing to reduce its impact on the environment. Since 1990, Alabama Power has eliminated 44 percent of the company`s per-megawatt-hour emissions of nitrogen oxide and 45 percent of its per-megawatt-hour emissions of sulfur dioxide while boosting its electricity production by 60 percent. Since the early 1970s, Alabama Power has spent more than $1.3 billion on environmental technology and research. In the next few years, the company expects to spend more than $1.6 billion to further reduce emissions.