TVA to idle four Colbert coal units by the end of June 2016

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plans to idle four coal-fired units at the Colbert Fossil Plant located on the Tennessee River near Tuscumbia, Ala., by 2016, said the Sierra Club on June 28.

The club said that this TVA announcement comes as part of a settlement reached several years ago between TVA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the club, numerous southeastern states and conservation organizations. Previously, TVA announced that the fifth unit (550 MW) at the plant would be idled. This new announcement covers idling of the final four units at the plant which total 800 MW, the club said.

“The Sierra Club applauds TVA for their recognition that coal is a fuel of the past, and that our future lies in investment in renewable energy and efficiency,” said Scott Banbury the Conservation Chair of the Tennessee Chapter of Sierra Club. “I hope today’s news signals a shift for TVA: investment in clean 21st century energy solutions, not reliance on biomass or coal as our energy future. The Sierra Club looks forward to working closely with TVA to lead the region in building a clean energy economy that will work for all of us.”

Under the previous settlement TVA agreed to retire a number of coal units and to increase clean energy spending across the region. For some units, like at Colbert, TVA agreed, instead, to either install pollutions controls or announce that the plant would be idled on a defined timetable. The June 28 letter from the TVA removing Colbert from service was a requirement of that timetable.

A TVA spokesperson said in a July 1 e-mail to GenerationHub that TVA recently sent a letter to the EPA stating that it has decided to remove four of the five Colbert units from service effective June 30, 2016. The specific units are 1-4. After the units are removed from service, TVA said it has the option under the agreement to control, convert or retire units 1-4 by 2019. The reason for the letter now is to fulfill a requirement to make known a decision on these units by June 30, 2013. Unit 5 at Colbert will be idled Sept. 30, 2013, TVA noted.  

In addition to the five coal units at Colbert, there are eight combustion turbine gas units with a summer net capacity of 392 MW. TVA plans to keep these units in the generation mix regardless of the future of the coal units.

The TVA website said that in support of environmental agreements and its desire for a cleaner-energy future, Colbert Unit 5, by Dec. 31, 2015, and Colberts 1-4, by June 30, 2016, will need to be: removed from service; converted to renewable biomass; controlled by adding a scrubber for SO2 reduction; or retired. If the units are removed from service by these dates, they could be returned to service with emissions controls within three years, the website said.

Colbert has five coal-fired generating units with a summer net capability of 1,184 MW. Construction at Colbert began in 1951 and was completed in 1965. The plant normally consumes about 8,900 tons of coal per day, the website said.

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.