Georgia Power brings online second McDonough combined-cycle unit

While FERC records show no new natural gas power plants entering commercial operation in March, natural gas won’t be shut out during April as Georgia Power said April 30 that the second of its three 840-MW combined-cycle generators has entered service at its McDonough-Atkinson complex in Smyrna, Ga.

The facility entered operation April 26, the Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) utility said in an April 30 news release. Georgia Power retired the two coal units at Plant McDonough-Atkinson on Sept. 30, 2011 and Feb. 29, 2012, respectively. 

Southern CEO Thomas Fanning recently said the company could become 57% powered by natural gas in 2020 under a continued scenario where natural gas is cheap and coal is comparatively costly.

Meanwhile, another Southeastern combined-cycle plant could enter operation this spring. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) said recently that its 850-MW John Sevier gas-fired plant should soon begin operation in Tennessee. New gas generation is being brought on there as older coal units are being retired.

As for the McDonough-Atkinson station, Georgia Power’s first of three natural gas plants became operational in December 2011. The third is currently under construction and should begin service in November 2012, Southern said.

With the addition of the third natural gas unit in November, the new units at Plant McDonough-Atkinson will be capable of producing in excess of 2,500 MW, enough energy to power approximately 625,000 homes. They also will represent one of the largest generation sources on Georgia Power’s system.

Georgia Power Senior Vice President of Generation Stan Connally praised the Georgia Public Service Commission for approving the new gas-fired generation. Georgia Power is not publicly revealing the construction cost of gas plants, which it considers a trade secret, said a company spokesperson, who added that the cost was revealed to the PSC.

The same spokesperson did say that the typical ratepayer who uses 1,000 kWH will see their monthly bills increase about $2.46 to pay for the first two combined-cycle plants.

Fluor (NYSE: FLR) served as the engineering, procurement and construction vendor for the first two gas plants while Southern Co. is essentially acting as its own EPC for the third, the spokesperson said.

About 19 miles of new natural gas pipe was laid in 2011 to accommodate the new gas units, the Georgia Power spokesperson said.

The new gas units are located at what is now known as the McDonough-Atkinson station. The Atkinson power plant actually burned several years ago. But with the development of new natural gas capacity, Georgia Power is reviving the Atkinson name, the spokesperson said.

Within the past year, Georgia Power decided to postpone the conversion of a Mitchell power plant unit from coal to biomass until it has a better idea of what new EPA boiler rules might require.

Among Georgia Power’s other big generation news this year is NRC approval of a new nuclear plant license for Vogtle units 3 and 4. Georgia Power leads an ownership group developing the two new units, currently scheduled for commercial operation in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.