TVA is looking at how or whether to replace its Kingston Fossil plant with a new source of power.
The utility is focusing on natural gas or solar as future options.
TVA stated on its website that it proposes to retire three of the Kingston Fossil Plant units between 2026 and 2031 and the remaining six units between 2027 and 2033 “dependent on when replacement generation could be constructed and brought online.”
The utility’s working on a study and report regarding the different options. At a virtual public meeting last week, TVA officials responded to questions submitted to them.
“Our hope is by the time we release our draft we’ll host an in-person meeting,” said Chevales Williams, TVA’s specialist on the National Environmental Policy Act, a federal law that lays out the process TVA follows. TVA stated on its official website that it hopes to have that report and ask for comments on it by late next year.
TVA specifically stated on its website that it is looking for views on what environmental resources and impacts it should consider in making the decision, sources of information at which it should look, and organizations with which TVA should work. It also asked if there are any other options it should consider.
On its website, TVA stated its coal plants generally are “among the oldest in the nation” and are having trouble with performance. It described the coal plants as “contributing to environmental, economic and reliability risks.” It plans to have another source of power generation to replace the plant. The utility stated Kingston Fossil Plant has required “low boiler drum” repairs, which it said were a sign of the plant’s age and hard to address.
The utility listed three different options it might consider to replace the power generated by the plant’s nine coal burning units, either on site or somewhere else. The selected option would need to generate 1,450 megawatts of power, and TVA officials stated at the meeting they are looking at either natural gas or solar, although their website asks for people to provide other alternatives as well.
The Kingston Fossil Plant made headlines when the ash waste containment structure TVA owned and operated at its plant near Kingston, Tenn., failed and released sludge on Dec. 22, 2008, damaging local homes and drinking water.
Scott Brooks with TVA public relations said at the meeting last week that TVA may close the ash in where it is or remove it to another location, but was waiting on orders from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to make that decision.
Roger Waldrep, TVA vice president of major projects, said TVA will need to “decommission, deactivate, decontaminate and then demolish” the structures at the site, a process that could take three to five years.
“All of the requirements that TVA has for union labor are in play,” he said regarding this future work.
Waldrep said all structures, down to three feet below the surface, save the switchyard, intake and discharge and the rail service will be removed from the site.
Waldrep said even if the site supports a new power plant there may still be room for other types of development on site as well, including at the former coal yard and the site of the plant itself.
TVA is considering either a natural gas plant on site or multiple ones in the region to generate the power lost by the loss of the Kingston Fossil Plant.
“Gas is a really good fit,” Kris Edmondson, vice president for TVA Coal Operations, told the virtual meeting audience regarding a gas plant’s ability to feasibly replace a coal-fired one.
One option TVA is looking at is building a combined cycle turbine gas plant at the Kingston location. Jane Elliott, senior program manager at TVA, said this option would have about half the current amount of carbon emissions as the current coal fired plant.
Brooks said a pipeline will be necessary if TVA decides to install natural gas on the site. A “preliminary proposed pipeline” design presented by TVA on its website shows the pipeline coming in from Trousdale County, Tenn.
As an alternative, TVA could build simple cycle combustion turbine plants at other locations. TVA has published a map on its website proposing these plants be in the Tennessee locations of Gallatin, Johnsonville, Gleason and Lagoon Creek, as well as Southaven and Kemper, Miss. Elliott said these plants would have greater carbon emissions than building a single combined cycle gas plant in Kingston, but less than the current coal-fired plant.
Natural gas has its critics, however.
“TVA’s slickly greenwashed plans for new CO2-spewing gas plants are completely incompatible with the U.N.’s crucial 1.5 degree Celsius global warming limit,” Anderson County environmentalist John Todd Waterman wrote in a recent email to The Oak Ridger regarding TVA’s plans. “Destructive gas fracking, vast leakage of natural gas’ primary component methane (which is 84 times worse for the climate than CO2 over 20 years), and gas plants’ air pollution and CO2 make gas just as harmful as coal.”
TVA is also looking at use solar facilities and power storage, which it stated would be “primarily” at other locations besides Kingston.
Waterman said he prefers that option.
“We have an historic opportunity to instead invest directly in ultimately far cheaper solar, wind, and storage — which come with none of carbon and nuclear’s vexing and largely irreversible economic, toxic, and climate nightmares,” he stated.
Brooks told The Oak Ridger solar and battery storage are the most likely forms of renewable energy, “since wind isn’t feasible generally in our area.”
Elliott said TVA is looking to add more solar energy to its power grid, hoping to reach about 10,000 megawatts of solar by 2035, regardless of the plans for Kingston Fossil Plant. However, she also pointed out that solar has certain challenges like a need for storing power during times when sunlight isn’t as available, including some of the coldest hours of winter when people may need heat.
Natural gas, she said, can instead be dispatched “an hour any time of the year.”
“Long term we do see solar being economic in the 2020s going into 2030,” Elliott said at the meeting.
However, she said any emissions from battery storage facilities “may be much lower” than the other options and the solar panels themselves create no carbon emissions.
Why not nuclear?
Elliot was negative about the prospects of a small modular nuclear reactor.
“Nuclear is certainly near and dear to our hearts,” she said, adding it generates about 40% of energy currently. She talked about TVA’s plans for a test Small Modular Reactor in Oak Ridge at the Clinch River site.
However she said an SMR couldn’t be in operation until 2032 and would only generate about 300 megawatts.
“It’s not an option that meets the need in this particular time frame,” she said.
Comments and further information
TVA officials are asking for public input on what should be included in the upcoming review of potential environmental impacts from the proposed retirement of Kingston Fossil Plant and the construction of replacement generation, according to a TVA news release.
The Environmental Impact Statement, a future document, will consider the potential impacts associated with the proposed retirement of the nine coal-fired units at Kingston, and the construction and operation of facilities to replace the retired generation. The first step of that process is to consider the scope of the study. Documents related to the power plant closing proposal can be found at www.tva.com/nepa.
TVA will accept written comments on the scope of the EIS through July 15. Comments may be submitted online at www.tva.com/nepa, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the administrative record and will be available for public inspection.
Ben Pounds is a staff reporter for The Oak Ridger. Call him at (865) 441-2317, and follow him on Twitter @Bpoundsjournal.