TVA implodes Johnsonville coal-fired smokestack, ready for more gas-fired capacity

Johnsonville Fossil Plant
Image credit TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority recently demolished its oldest coal-fired power plant and begins paving the way for new development and next-gen gas-fired generation on the site.

TVA officials presided while the 600-foot smokestack was imploded at the Johnsonville Fossil Plant. Johnsonville first generated electricity in 1951 through to the last day of 2017.

“I’m sad to see it go,” said Bob Joiner, a TVA retiree who worked at the plant for more than three decades and watched the implosion. “That plant was built in the ‘40s by the greatest generation. They put all that together with nothing but pencils, paper and slide rules, and it was built to last.”

TVA wants to redevelop the site possibly for future generation including clean-energy technologies. The site already includes 20 gas-fired combustion turbines, which themselves will be retired once newer, more efficient gas generation is added to the system.

Light-weight, aeroderivative combustion turbines are being considered for the Johnsonville location, according to the TVA. The federal utility also is mulling a possible carbon-capture demonstration project at the site.

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“It’s an exciting time to be in the utility industry, and technology is rapidly changing,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO. “TVA is a technology leader, and our coal sites can serve as a test bed as we build cleaner energy systems that drive jobs and investment into our communities.”

Last month, TVA announced it is investing $1 billion to build new lower-emission, natural gas-fueled combustion turbines at shuttered coal plants in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and Paradise, Kentucky.

The coal-fired plant was named for the town of Johnsonville, which was flooded during the formation of the adjacent Kentucky Lake. The town was relocated several miles south and named New Johnsonville.

Plant construction began May 12, 1949 with the first of the plant’s 10 operating units going into service Oct. 27, 1951. The final unit began generating electricity on Aug. 20, 1959.

Units 1 through 4 ceased generation December 2017 as part of a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency. Units 5 through 10 were idled five years earlier.

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