TVA Outlines Plans for Idling Coal-Fired Units

TVA Outlines Plans for Idling Coal-Fired Units

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plans to begin idling nine coal-fired power generation units in the next fiscal year as it moves toward cleaner sources of energy.

These nine units represent about 1,000 megawatts of capacity for the TVA, which is owned by the federal government. It joins a growing list of power generators slowly phasing out coal-fired units in order to reduce a range of air emissions contributing to air pollution and climate change.

Since last summer, Xcel, Progress Energy Carolinas, and the Intermountain Power Agency have opted to shut down existing coal-fired units or abandon plans for additional coal-fired capacity due to a variety of regulatory and environmental concerns.

There are also legal implications for existing coal-fired power plants. A 2004 case involving the TVA, for example, made headlines last week over the right to sue power plant operators to force a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2004, a handful of state governments and land trusts sued TVA and other utilities to make them reduce their carbon footprints. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court sided with the plaintiffs. The Obama Administration urged the Supreme Court last week to return the case to the 2nd Circuit Court because the EPA was moving forward with implementing regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which angered environmental groups.

The TVA will idle the coal-fired units between 2011 and 2015, while at the same time increasing electricity generation from cleaner sources, such as natural gas and nuclear. The TVA, however, has had issues with nuclear generation this year because the Tennessee River has been too warm to properly cool the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the TVA lost nearly $50 million in lost power generation because the river was too hot to cool the reactors of its largest nuclear plant.

Image courtesy of TVA.