Louisville, Kentucky Utilities plan 700-MW gas-fired project

Sister utilities Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities said Oct. 3 that they plan to file for a certificate of public convenience and necessity with the Kentucky Public Service Commission on a second natural gas combined-cycle generating station (NGCC) and also a solar facility.

The NGCC plant, to be located in Muhlenberg County in the western part of the state, is expected to create about 40 permanent full-time jobs and several hundred construction jobs in western Kentucky.

Due to increased environmental regulations, LG&E and KU previously announced they are retiring 800 MW of older coal generation — at the Cane Run, Green River and Tyrone stations — and building a 640-MW NGCC unit at Cane Run. A request for proposals was issued in September 2012 to address the remaining lost generation and long-term load growth.

LG&E and KU said they evaluated competitive bids which included renewable energy, existing energy within Kentucky and the building of new generation. The utilities also considered short-term proposals (from one to five years) and long-term proposals (from 10 to 20 years).

After this analysis was completed, the building of a second NGCC at the existing Green River coal plant site proved to be the best long-term solution for baseload generation, they said. While the details are being finalized, the plant is expected to have about 700 MW of capacity and cost about $700m to construct. Utiility spokesperson Chris Whelan said Oct. 4 that there is no existing gas pipeline into the plant site, but that Texas Gas and Tennessee Gas each have nearby pipelines that are options to tap into.

Additionally, the companies will be seeking to construct about a 10-MW solar facility costing about $25m at one of the existing generating stations. Several sites are still being evaluated in order to determine the optimal location.

“In order to continue to meet our customers’ energy needs and considering ever-increasing federal environmental regulations, this has been a lengthy and complicated bid process. We’re pleased that the outcome creates economic development in western Kentucky and provides LG&E and KU customers with reliable, low-cost energy that will meet the latest set of federal EPA regulations,” said Paul Thompson, LG&E and KU chief operating officer.

LG&E and KU plan to file the certificate of public convenience and necessity for the new NGCC plant and solar facility with the KPSC before the end of the year. The utilities intend to have the NGCC plant online in 2018 and the solar facility online in 2016. If approved and those facilities are built, LG&E and KU’s generation capacity will be 59% coal-fired, 40% natural gas-fired and 1% renewable.

These utilities are part of the PPL Corp. (NYSE: PPL) family of companies. LG&E serves 321,000 natural gas and 397,000 electric customers in Louisville and 16 surrounding counties. Kentucky Utilities serves 546,000 customers in 77 Kentucky counties and five counties in Virginia.

Utilities have also looked at retiring two Brown plant units

Notable is that Kentucky Utilities d/b/a Old Dominion Power, said in a Sept. 3 filing at the Virginia State Corporation Commission that it has been considering whether to retire the coal-fired E. W. Brown Units 1 and 2 in Kentucky. That is in addition to the Cane Run, Green River and Tyrone retirements mentioned by the two utilities on Oct. 3.

Said the Sept. 3 filing at one point: “Brown Units 1 and 2 are assumed to be retrofitted with environmental controls and continue to operate beyond 2015. The Companies are currently evaluating responses to an RFP for meeting their future energy and capacity needs. The decision to retire or retrofit Brown 1-2 is being revisited in the context of this analysis.”

In a section for expected capacity additions, the utility shows in that Virginia filing two projects, both gas-fired:

  • Operating in May 2015, 2×1 combined cycle combustion turbine facility, at Cane Run plant site in Kentucky, 640 MW net summer capacity; and
  • June 2018, 2×1 combined cycle combustion turbine, undetermined site, 605 MW net summer capacity. That is apparently the project announced on Oct. 3.

The filing doesn’t have any information on the Brown plant. “Situated on the banks of Lake Herrington near Harrodsburg, Ky., the E.W. Brown Plant is unique in that it showcases three generations of electricity-producing processes — a hydroelectric plant, three fossil-fueled generating units and seven combustion turbines,” said the website of Kentucky Utilities and sister utility LG&E. “The three coal-fired generators can produce 749 megawatts of electricity, more than one-fifth of KU’s total capacity. An average of 1.5 million tons of coal is burned annually at E.W. Brown Station.”

The website indicates that Brown Unit 3 has a fuller suite of air emissions controls, while Units 1 and 2 will need more controls to comply with EPA regulations. Whelan said Oct. 4 that the decisions whether to retire Units 1 and 2, or to retrofit them with technologies like baghouses, have yet to be made. She couldn’t offer a timeline to make those decisions.

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.