The Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors unanimously agreed Thursday morning to close the Bull Run Fossil Plant, a coal-burning power plant in Claxton.
The single-generator plant is across the Clinch River from east Oak Ridge.
In another plant retirement, the board voted 6-1 Thursday to close the one coal-fired generator still operating, Unit 3, at the Paradise Fossil Plant near Drakesboro, Kentucky.
The vote on Paradise was 6-1 on Thursday, with board member Kenneth Allen dissenting.
Paradise Unit 3 could be retired in December 2020, and Bull Run could be closed December 2023, TVA said. Bull Run has been reported to be running at about 30 percent capacity for several years.
In a press release, TVA said Bull Run and Paradise Unit 3 are both older coal-generating units that were not designed to efficiently respond to the continually fluctuating power needs of customers today. TVA said the closures would better balance its generation system with changing energy load demands.
“This decision will help ensure continued reliability while maintaining rates as low as feasible,” the public utility said.
The retirement votes on Thursday followed a review of the fuel, transmission, economic, and environmental impacts. In November, TVA asked for public input about the potential closures.
“Making decisions that impact employees and communities is difficult as we fulfill our commitment to keep power rates as low as possible,’” TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson said in the press release on Thursday. “We value the contributions of the employees of Paradise and Bull Run, and we will be working directly with them and local communities to ease the transition as much as possible.”
TVA has gone from 11 fossil plants to six since 2011.
The potential closures of Bull Run and Paradise had generated some opposition, including from President Donald Trump (in the case of Paradise) and from local officials and residents who have been concerned about, among other things, the loss of 100-125 jobs at Bull Run, the possible effect on economic development, and the possibility that the plants would be allowed to sit and deteriorate after they shut down. During a special session on Monday, TVA representatives told Oak Ridge City Council that they have proved, at previous coal plant closures, “we’re always interested in trying to redevelop them.”
In August, TVA announced a review of generating assets that was focused on Bull Run and Paradise. The review was to be 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 at the time that the evaluation could help determine whether the plants will be needed in the future. The assessment was 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 were the Bull Run Fossil Plant, Unit 3 at the Paradise Fossil Plant in western Kentucky, and combustion turbines (gas turbines), Brooks said. The assessment was to look at whether TVA needs Bull Run or Paradise or combustion turbines in the future.
The Bull Run Fossil Plant 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 last year.
In August, Brooks said TVA’s assessment was 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.
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 was 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 as of November, that figure was down to 26 percent.
Also Thursday, the board approved new renewable solutions that will better equip TVA and local power companies with the flexibility to meet changing customer needs, the press release said.
“Over the past six months, TVA has worked with solar developers to add 674 megawatts of additional renewable energy to meet customer requests, and this trend is continuing to grow,” said Johnson. “TVA and local power companies are partnering on research projects that will help us better address the desire for choice in energy while continuing the benefits of reliable, low-cost public power for the Valley.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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