Dominion, Exelon lead the parade of coal plant retirements this year

There was 1,635.5 MW of coal-fired capacity that was retired in the January-May period this year, with the single largest part of that coming through the March retirement of the State Line power plant in Indiana of Dominion Resources (NYSE: D), said a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The report, EIA’s Electric Power Monthly for June, breaks down in tabular form power plant retirements by month. There were no coal retirements in January.

  • In February, Duke Energy Indiana, a unit of Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), retired R. Gallagher Units 1 and 3, each with a summer net rating of 140 MW. Under a consent decree with the federal government reached in a New Source Review lawsuit, the company was required to make a final decision by Jan. 1, 2012, concerning whether Gallagher Units 1 and 3 would be converted to natural gas or retired. Gallagher Units 2 and 4 are still in operation, though, and in the utility’s capacity mix for the future.
  • In February, the Georgia Power subsidiary of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) retired Jack McDonough Unit 1, with 251 MW of net summer capacity. 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. Georgia Power retired the two coal units at Plant McDonough-Atkinson in September 2011 and in February.
  • In March, Dominion’s State Line Energy LLC unit retired the final two operating units at the State Line plant: Unit 3 at 124.9 MW (net summer), and Unit 4 at 209.4 MW. Dominion chose to shut the venerable units in face of a need for major emissions-control retrofits and a depressed power market in the region.
  • In April, Duke Energy Carolinas retired Dan River Units 1-2, each with a net summer capacity of 67 MW, and Dan River Unit 3, with 142 MW. The retirements at this North Carolina plant were part of a sweeping series of coal-plant shutdowns Duke has in play in the Carolinas to meet clean-air needs, with the company focusing on newer, scrubber-equipped coal plants as the survivors for the future.
  • In April, Public Service Co. of Colorado retired Cherokee Unit 1, with 107 MW (net summer) of capacity. This retirement is part of a series of coal unit shutdowns and coal-to-gas conversions that this Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) subsidiary has in the works to meet a state of Colorado clean energy act and emissions mandates. Also as part of that plan, Cherokee Unit 2 was retired in 2011, Arapahoe Unit 3 is due to retire in 2013 and Arapahoe Unit 4 is due to switch from coal to gas in 2013.
  • In April, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC, which produces power for a U.S. Department of Energy nuclear site in South Carolina, retired seven small coal units at its D Area power plant in favor of new biomass-fired facilities. Units HP-1, HP-2 and HP-3 had 9.4 MW of net summer capacity apiece, while units LP-1, LP-2, LP-3 and LP-4 had 12.5 MW of capacity each.
  • In May, Exelon Power retired Eddystone Unit 2, in Pennsylvania, with 309 MW of net summer capacity. This was the last phase of a long-running program by Exelon Corp. (NYSE: EXC) to shut four coal- and oil-fired units at its Cromby and Eddystone plants in Pennsylvania to meet clean-air needs and to position the company for a cleaner-emitting future with its nuclear and gas-fired facilities. In May 2011, Cromby Unit 1 and Eddystone Unit 1 were retired. Cromby Unit 2 was retired in December 2011.

EIA reported that 5,627.1 MW of new generating capacity went into operation in the January-May period, none of it coal-fired. The total of all power plant retirements during the January-May period was 2,776.7 MW (with 1,635.5 MW of it coal), which means that the level of total new capacity added in the period was way more than the level of retirements on a capacity basis. But, it is worthy of note that much of the new capacity was wind and solar, plus some gas-fired peaking capacity, which only generate power some of the time, while coal plants generally can run at baseload, though a lot of the retired coal units probably weren’t operated at baseload in their final days.

Some of this is in the timing, since the new Prairie State coal plant in Illinois is not in the January-May report, but the first of its two 800-MW units started operating on June 6, with the second unit due for operation late this year. Also, Duke Energy Indiana’s 618-MW Edwardsport coal gasification unit is in its final construction days and will possibly begin officially operating late this year.

Incidentally, EIA pulled this new and retired power plant data from Form EIA-860, “Annual Electric Generator Report,” and Form EIA-860M, “Monthly Update to the Annual Electric Generator Report.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.