The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Monday, 04 December 2023 13:26

TVA’s Bull Run coal plant goes dark in Oak Ridge. More fossils to follow?

Written by

IMG 9617 2Bull Run Fossil Plant in Anderson County, Tennessee, is officially offline as of Dec. 1, 2023, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Abigail Baxter/Hellbender Press

TVA retires coal-fired plant; just four more to go

OAK RIDGE — The Tennessee Valley Authority took another step toward its goal to phase out all its coal plants by 2035.

TVA officially announced Bull Run Fossil Plant, at 1265 Edgemoor Road in Anderson County’s Claxton community, closed on Friday, Dec. 1. The TVA board decided to close the plant four years earlier on Feb. 14, 2019. Now the utility says it plans to retire all of its coal plants by 2035. The utility has cited the environment and efficiency as reasons for closing the plants. TVA plans to create solar and natural gas plants to replace the power formerly generated by coal. TVA has not made final plans for the Bull Run site.

“It’s not an easy decision to retire a plant, but it’s one we must make to secure a reliable and cleaner energy future as our generation portfolio and load shapes change,” Jacinda Woodward, senior vice president of power operations, said in a press release. 

Cumberland Fossil Plant in Stewart County will close in 2028. The utility’s other remaining coal fired plants, Gallatin Fossil PlantKingston Fossil Plant and Shawnee Fossil Plant will all close before 2035.

TVA is the largest public provider of electricity in the United States. It supplies wholesale power to every major municipal provider in Tennessee, as well as other metropolitan areas and smaller utility districts and cooperatives within its seven-state service area.

TVA stated it gave Bull Run Fossil Plant workers a choice to work at other TVA facilities, retire, or continue working at Bull Run Fossil Plant to help it transition toward closing.

If not coal then what?

“To ensure reliability, we will not retire a plant without replacement generation in place,” TVA states on its official website.

The utility lists natural gas plants as one such replacement. It’s said that switching to gas will reduce sulfur dioxide by nearly 100 percent, reduce nitrogen oxide by more than 90 percent and reduce carbon by more than 60 percent. Other methods TVA listed to replace coal include increased nuclear capacity, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

Environmentalists have criticized the focus on new natural gas plants, noting that TVA’s reports ignore upstream methane leakage, which makes methane worse than coal.

Natural gas does pollute less than coal, but that’s a low bar,” Chelsea Bowling, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center said at a meeting regarding the Kingston Fossil Plant.

“I urge TVA when seriously considering energy infrastructure to not waste more time and money with outdated natural gas projects. These projects do not serve as a bridge. What they do is tie us up for years, even decades, on unsustainable natural gas,” The Sierra Club’s Dana Moran said.

Rate this item
(2 votes)
Last modified on Tuesday, 05 December 2023 12:20