The Tennessee Valley Authority will close nine of its oldest coal firing units in its effort to save money on environmental upgrades and lower its carbon emissions.
The idling is expected to be completed by 2015 and will include two units at the John Sevier Fossil Plant in northeastern Tennessee, six units at Widows Creek Fossil Plant in northeastern Alabama and one unit at the Shawnee Fossil Plant near Paducah, Ky.
Colbert Fossil Plant in Barton will be unaffected, but the plant, completed in 1965, will be on the drawing board for potential closure in the future.
“We’ll just put these plants in the parking lot,” said Tom Kilgore, CEO of TVA who made the announcement Tuesday.
TVA will make up the difference with a gas plant in John Sevier, with the upcoming nuclear Bellefonte plant east of Scottsboro and a possible biomass plant at Shawnee.
About 200 employees would be affected, Kilgore said.
“We don’t think there will be any jobs at risk in the next year. We think we have work for those people who want work. It may mean that they might have to relocate,” he said.
The nation’s largest utility is facing increasing emissions regulations on its aging coal fired plants.
“The top priority is reducing emissions, and that includes carbon,” Kilgore said.
Kilgore said the units being idled are because of their age, complex new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and a new energy generation coming online.
The new anticipated generation includes a 1,200-megawatt reactor at Watts Barr expected for 2012 and the potential for completing the Bellefonte nuclear plant in 2018, pending board approval.
Stephen Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, welcomed the announcement and said it was a positive step for cleaner air.
“We’re not enthusiastic about expanding nuclear, a high risk energy source,” Smith said. “We don’t buy that it’s clean energy.”
He added, “We do understand that if you’re going to have a conversation about replacing thousands of megawatts of energy, (nuclear) has to be part of the discussion.”
Kilgore said TVA’s main new sources of energy include nuclear, energy efficiency and gas-generated electricity when needed.
“We don’t anticipate any impacts on rates,” Kilgore said.
Trevor Stokes can be reached at 256-740-5728 or trevor.stokes@TimesDaily.com.