Coal, Emissions, Policy & Regulations

TVA assessment recommends closing coal-fired Paradise Unit 3 despite presidential push

The Tennessee Valley Authority has concluded that it should shut down two coal-fired units within four years, despite protests from residents and President Donald Trump.

The TVA’s final environmental review recommended closing the Bull Run Fossil Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the Unit 3 generator at Paradise Fossil Plant in western Kentucky.

The assessment says the closings should happen by 2023, although the TVA said that Paradise could close as early as next year. The conclusion comes even though hundreds of residents rallied in support of Paradise over the weekend, and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and other political leaders tried to get TVA to keep it open.

The biggest—or at least highest positioned—political booster for Paradise was President Trump. The president has talked for years about reviving the coal industry, yet coal-fired plant closings have doubled during his time in office.

On Sunday, though, Trump came out specifically for keeping Paradise Unit 3 open.

He tweeted: “Coal is an important part of our electricity mix and @TVAnews should give consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise  #3 in Kentucky!”

The tweet received more than 84,000 hearts (Twitter equivalent of Facebook likes) and some 17,000 comments. One of those comments was from the TVA itself.

“Mr. President, coal is an important part of TVA’s power generation mix and we will give serious consideration to all factors as we make this decision,” @TVANews replied.

In the end, however, the environmental assessment found that TVA is experiencing flat to declining load, while natural gas prices have remained relatively low. The economics and environment costs are not in Paradise’s favor.

“As a large coal unit with medium operating costs and a high forced outage rate, as well as the need for significant repairs, PAF Unit 3 does not fit current and likely future portfolio needs,” the TVA report reads. “PAF Unit 3 was designed to produce 1,000 megawatts of steady power generation. However, with increased volatility in energy consumption and increased nuclear generation that provides lower cost, steady generation, PAF Unit 3 is challenged to adjust in order to respond to these changes in consumption. The potential retirement of a unit with high maintenance costs in 2020 would facilitate TVA’s statutory mission to provide reliable power at the lowest system cost.”

The 1,000-MW Unit 3 became operational in 1970, seven years after the original coal-fired Paradise Units 1 and 2 were commissioned. The first two units were shifted from coal to natural gas and went online that way in 2017.

(Rod Walton is content manager for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and [email protected]).

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Coal-fired generation-whether it’s O&M, environmental upgrading, cycling or decommissioning- is a key part of the content at the POWERGEN International conference and exhibition happening Nov. 19-21 in New Orleans. The call for abstracts is still open to present sessions at the conference.