The Tennessee Valley Authority is asking for public input on a review of the potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts of closing the Bull Run and Paradise Fossil Plants.
Bull Run, located in Anderson County, Tennessee, is a single-generator coal-fired power plant. Paradise, near Drakesboro, Kentucky, has one coal-fired generator still operating, unit 3. Two other coal-fired units at Paradise were retired when a new natural gas plant began operation at the site in 2017.
TVA announced a review of generating assets that was focused on Bull Run and Paradise in August. The review is based on the future cost of maintenance and environmental compliance, and other factors. TVA said it must continually evaluate its fleet to ensure flexibility and financial responsibility.
Oak Ridge Today reported when the review was announced in August that the evaluation could help determine whether the plants will be needed in the future. The assessment is to focus on plants that are the least efficient, least cost-effective, and expected to have the highest future costs, TVA spokesperson Scott Brooks said. Plants that fit into that category are the Bull Run Fossil Plant, the one remaining unit (Unit 3) at the Paradise Fossil Plant in western Kentucky near Drakesboro, and combustion turbines (gas turbines), Brooks said. The assessment will look at whether TVA needs Bull Run or Paradise or combustion turbines in the future.
On Monday of this week, TVA said it has prepared a separate environmental assessment, one for Bull Run and another for Paradise, to look at the site-specific impacts of the potential retirement of each of the coal-burning sites. The assessments are required under the National Environmental Policy Act and will be part of the information used to inform the TVA Board early next year before a decision is made whether to retire either of the units.
The draft EAs are available for review through December 19 at www.tva.com/nepa. Comments on either or both of the assessments can be submitted at that website, by email to [email protected], or in writing to Ashley Pilakowski, NEPA Compliance, Tennessee Valley Authority, 400 West Summit Hill Drive, WT 11B, Knoxville, TN 37902.
Comments submitted become part of the public record, including names and addresses, a press release said. Comments must be received by December 19.
The Bull Run Fossil Plant, which is across the Clinch River from east Oak Ridge, started operating in 1967, and it’s one of the newer coal-burning plants. The 881-megawatt plant can generate enough electricity to power about 400,000 homes. TVA has added the latest environmental controls at Bull Run for emissions and is making changes to go from wet to dry storage for coal ash and other coal combustion residuals, Brooks said.
Regarding the combustion turbines, Brooks said they help meet peak power demands all over the Tennessee Valley. Some of the combustion turbines have been around for decades, and some don’t run all that often, Brooks said. TVA has 87 simple cycle combustion turbines, and besides natural gas, they can burn diesel or fuel oil.
In August, Brooks said the assessment is being driven by current and future demands. TVA’s energy demands are flat to declining, including because of energy efficiency measures that include customers using more efficient light bulbs, appliances, and heating and cooling systems.
“We’re looking at whether we have more generating assets than we need at the lowest feasible cost,” Brooks said.
He said TVA’s goal during the last five years has been a diverse power generation portfolio. That has included shutting down 10 coal units at Johnsonville in 2017 and three units at Allen in Memphis this year, adding nuclear power at Watts Bar Unit 2 and upgrading Browns Ferry, and increasing energy efficiency and the percentage of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. Hydropower is still about 10 percent of TVA’s power generation portfolio, Brooks said.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press, which attended the TVA board meeting in August, reported that TVA has shut down 32 of the 59 coal-fired units it once operated, including the 13 units at Johnsonville and Allen, and is reviewing the two units at Bull Run and Paradise. Other units still operating in Tennessee include two units at Cumberland near Nashville, nine units at Kingston, four units at Gallatin, and nine units at Shawnee. Unit 3 at Paradise, which became operational in 1970, has a generating capacity of 1,150 megawatts, enough to supply more than 950,000 homes.
Two other units at Paradise were retired in 2017 and replaced with a more efficient combined-cycle gas plant, according to S&P Global.
The Times Free Press reported that newer natural gas plants that TVA has added to replace its John Sevier, Allen, and oldest Paradise units during the past four years are twice as efficient as the older coal units were when they operated. The newspaper said TVA has shifted its generation mix to get more than half of its its power from carbon-free sources, including its seven nuclear reactors.
S&P Global reported that 58 percent of TVA’s portfolio was coal in 2007, but that figure is now down to 26 percent.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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