Navy to tear down its last coal-fired power plant

A ground-breaking ceremony July 9 celebrated the start of construction for a $62m project that will both decrease energy costs at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Indian Head, Md., located near Washington, D.C., and demolish the last remaining coal-fired power plant operated by the Navy.

The project will provide the installation with decentralized steam and a 3.5-MW co-generation facility for electricity and steam.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy Thomas Hicks said that energy efficiency is critical as the Navy seeks to meet half of its energy needs through alternative sources by 2020. “What you see here is a project that is going to save the Navy $7.5 million a year in the tough fiscal environment that we’re in and that we’re going to be facing for several years, if not a decade or more,” Hicks said. “We’re going to need projects like this that deliver those types of savings.”

“This project will fundamentally transform the steam distribution system at Indian Head,” said Capt. Peter Nette, commanding officer for Naval Support Activity South Potomac.

A combination natural gas turbine and heat recovery steam generator will replace the installation’s Goddard Power Plant. Constructed in 1957, the Goddard plant generates steam, compressed air and about 67% of the electric power used at NSF Indian Head. The power plant requires frequent costly repair and maintenance. Because of the outdated equipment, both steam production and steam transmission have become unreliable.

Capt. Kenneth Branch, commanding officer of Naval Facilities and Engineering Washington (NAVFACWASH), said: “This project stood the test of every single accountant that went after it; the numbers are there. If you truck coal and you lose steam over 30 miles [of line], the numbers are there.”

The new system will cut energy use by 50%, water consumption by 75% and steam requirements by 80%, resulting in approximately $7.5m of savings each year. Also, more than 50 billion pounds of carbon emissions will be reduced each year.

Natural gas, a cleaner and more efficient fuel source, will serve as the primary fuel for the new steam- and power-generation facilities. NSF Indian Head currently does not have any natural gas distribution infrastructure, and the nearest natural gas supply line is located about five miles northeast of the installation in Bryans Road, Md. The project will include the construction of a new natural gas line from Bryans Road to NSF Indian Head.

Branch said that each year with the current plant, the Navy is moving 46 million pounds of coal (23,000 tons, based on the math of a 2,000-pound ton) more than 400 miles by rail, barge and truck to Indian Head.

The Navy completed the environmental assessment for the project and signed a finding of no significant impact on Sept. 21 last year, and the military construction contract was awarded to Clark Construction and The Bell Co. on Sept. 28.

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.