TVA makes latest decisions on coal-fired unit shutdowns

The Tennessee Valley Authority, working under legal agreements to reduce air emissions and shut coal-fired capacity, recently decided to shut two units at the Widows Creek power plant as of July 31 of this year.

In April 2011, TVA entered into two ssimilar agreements, one with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the other with Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and three environmental advocacy groups (collectively called the “Environmental Agreements”). Under the agreements, TVA committed, among other things, to retire, on a phased schedule, 18 coal-fired units.

Consistent with the agreements, Units 1 and 2 at John Sevier Fossil Plant were retired on Dec. 31, 2012. The remaining two units at John Sevier were idled on Dec. 31, 2012, TVA noted in its Aug. 5 Form 10-Q quarterly report filed at the SEC.

In December 2012, TVA notified the EPA of its decision regarding options for Units 3 and 4 at John Sevier and Unit 5 at Colbert Fossil Plant. TVA elected to retire John Sevier Units 3 and 4 by Dec. 31, 2015, and to remove Colbert Unit 5 from service effective Dec. 31, 2015.

TVA also provided notice that it will locate a Particulate Matter Continuous Emissions Monitor (PM CEM) on the common stack for Shawnee Fossil Plant Units 6-10 in lieu of installing the PM CEM at Colbert Unit 5.

On June 28, in accordance with the requirements in the Environmental Agreements, TVA notified the EPA of its decision regarding Units 1-4 at Colbert, electing the “Remove from Service” option for these units effective June 30, 2016.

With respect to Widows Creek Fossil Plant Units 1-6, TVA must retire two units by July 31, 2013, two more units by July 31, 2014, and the remaining two units by July 31, 2015. TVA, in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Agreements, has selected Units 3 and 5 for retirement effective July 31, 2013.

On July 15, TVA determined that Colbert Unit 5 will be idled early, on Oct. 1, 2013. Colbert Unit 5 had been scheduled to be idled on Oct. 1, 2014. 

In March, TVA announced it is proceeding with a $1.1bn emissions control project at the coal-fired Gallatin Fossil Plant. The project includes the installation of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and scrubbers at all four units of the 976-MW plant. The scrubbers are expected to be completed in 2016, with the SCR systems to follow in 2018. Environmental groups have taken TVA to court over that decision.

“Due to the age, lower capacity, and lower efficiency of TVA’s older coal-fired units, it may not be economical to continue to operate some units in the future, particularly if new environmental laws or regulations become effective,” the Form 10-Q said. “However, discontinuing the use of some coal-fired units may be constrained by transmission reinforcement that will be required before the units are taken out of service.”

TVA is also planning to convert its wet coal combustion residual facilities to dry collection facilities, an outgrowth of the costly failure a few years ago of the ash impoundment at the Kingston coal plant in Tennessee. The estimated cost of this conversion is between $1.5bn and $2bn. The current schedule for completion is December 2022.

The TVA website said that Widows Creek Units 1-6 were idled in 2010 and 2011. Widows Creek Units 7 and 8 remain active and have a combined summer net capacity of 974 MW. So the retirement of Units 3 and 5 on July 31 didn’t take currently active units out of service.

John Sevier has four coal-fired units with a summer net capability of 704 MW, the TVA website said. The plant had been at full usage consuming about 5,700 tons of coal a day. As TVA indicated, two of the four units have been retired and the other two are currently idle.

Colbert has five coal-fired units with a summer net capability of 1,184 MW. The plant has consumed in the past up to about 8,900 tons of coal a day.

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.