What is Smart Power and how does it work?
Smart Power is Southern Company's approach to researching, developing and deploying ways to generate clean, reliable, cost-effective electricity as energy demands rise. Key components of Smart Power are new nuclear, 21st century coal technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration, natural gas initiatives like the conversion of coal-fired plants, renewable energy innovation and energy efficiency.
Smart energy is broken into three segments with smart power being one of the three. It focuses on how we are researching, developing, and deploying innovative ways to generate clean, reliable, cost-effective electricity for our customers. Southern Company believes the key to meeting our growing energy demand is a broad portfolio of available energy resources. Diversification or leveraging all the arrows in the quiver is key. And as a result, Southern Company is investing in new nuclear, 21st century coal, natural gas, renewables, energy efficiency, and distributed generation.
Let's first talk about new nuclear. As demand for reliable electricity in the United States continues to grow, Southern Company believes nuclear power is a key part of the solution. Southen Company has more than 30 years of safe, reliable operating success at our 6 nuclear units in Georgia and Alabama. Now, we're leading the nation as we launch the next generation of nuclear units in Georgia.
Our current Vogtle three and four project will add two new units with more than 2200 megawatts of capacity and start ups are planned for 2016 and 2017. The technology being used in the three and four project is new and has the environmental advantages of no green house gas emissions and the ability to isolate the waste from the environment.
The nuclear site requires less land than solar or wind, thus conserving the habitat. The new design with the Westinghouse AP1000, certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is safe, efficient, and simplier than existing models.
Next, let's look at the 21st century coal technologies we are leveraging. Plant Ratcliff in Kemper County, Mississippi is an example of 21st century coal technology. This project will use a state of the art, electric, power plant technology that we developed. It's called Transport Integrated Gasification, or TRIG. It's an advanced version of integrated gasification combined cycle for IGCC. TRIG converts low-grade coals, such as lignite, into a synthesis gas.
Simply put, the process sends lignite through a device, called a gasifier, where by being subjected to high temperatures and high pressure, the lignite undergoes a chemical reaction that creates a synthesis gas. The gas is cleaned and then used to generate power by firing it in a gas turban. The exhaust gases are heat exchanged with water and steam to generate super heated steam to drive a steam turban and generator. Electricity generated from TRIG has fewer emissions than existing pulverized, coal power plants.
Carbon capture and sequestration is another example of a 21st-century coal technology. Southern Company has been actively testing, developing, and depilling at locations like Plant Barry. This innovative approach enables us to capture carbon dioxide before it is omitted from plants. The captured carbon dioxide will be injected into and stored underground geologic formations.
Next, let's look at natural gas. Southern Company continues to pursue ways to grow our natural gas generation. As an example, we are converting Plant McDonough from coal-fired to natural gas. We will continue to research options for additional conversions of existing coal-fired plants. Renewable energy is another important component of Southern Company's generation portfolio. The company is taking action to increase the roll of renewables in the generation of electricity, consistent to the availability of resources that ensures a continued supply of reliable and affordable energy.
Southern Power is building a 100-megawatt wood biomass in Texas. We are partnering with Ted Turner on a solar plant in New Mexico that is one of the largest in the United States. Other solar facilities are under development in the southeast.
We are currently studying wind as a generation resource in a project on the Gulf Coast. Alabama Power has also recently undertaken the purchase of some 200 megawatts of wind energy being developed in Oklahoma. There are a growing array of green energy offerings to customers, including power from landfill methane, biomass, and solar. We have a landfill gas to electricity plant currently operating in Florida.
Next, let's explore energy efficiency. Energy efficiency and demand side management are part of our smart power framework. We are aggressively working to reduce demand growth through our efficiency and conservation programs. Southern Company programs have reduced peak demands for electricity by 3400 megawatts. We plan to spend 1 billion dollars on energy efficiency and demand control programs between now and 2020, programs that will reduce peak demand by an additional 1000 megawatts. An additional component of Southern Company's smart power strategy is distributed generation or small scale energy resources located near the facilities they serve. Good examples of ongoing projects we're involved in to research and promote distributed generation are solar applications on billboards in Florida and on our Alabama Power and Georgia Power headquarter buildings. This type of generation will be cost-effective in the future.
So, let's recap. Smart power demonstrates our commitment to providing a full portfolio of generation possibilities to our customers. These include new nuclear, 21st-century coal, natural gas, and energy efficiency. Southern Company will continue pursuing smart power by leveraging the company's innovative culture to research, develop, and deploy new technologies.