In Memphis, TVA Will Replace Coal with Natural Gas

by Lance Turner  on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 3:12 pm  

The Tennessee Valley Authority voted Thursday to replace its Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis with a natural gas plant, a move aimed at improving air quality conditions in the area.

The TVA, the nation’s largest public utility, said it will retire the 55-year-old coal plant and replace it with a natural gas plant that will reduce carbon emissions by more than 60 percent, nitrogen oxides by 90 percent and sulfur dioxide by nearly 100 percent.

The TVA is operating according to a 2011 clean-air agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and other groups to replace the plant or install emission controls by December 2018.

"This natural gas plant will improve air quality in Memphis and that is important to the city’s vitality and future economic development," TVA President Bill Johnson said in a news release after the vote.

Crittenden County in Arkansas and neighboring counties in Tennessee and Mississippi are designated by the EPA as "nonattainment" areas for air quality standards set by the Clear Air Act.

That designation has been a key concern for economic development officials seeking to attract or establish new industrial projects in the Memphis area.

While the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality said the TVA’s plans for a natural gas plant would be good for air quality, it said it doesn’t know yet how big the impact will be.

"We do feel that if the plant is retired or converted to a natural gas-fired plant there would be a positive impact on air quality over the long run in the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Crittenden County," AEDQ spokeswoman Katherine Benenati said. "Just what the full impact, or how such a change would affect Crittenden County's attainment with federal ozone standards, would be difficult to fully quantify."

The TVA said the new plant will be a "high-efficiency, 2-on-1, combined-cycle gas plant." The board voted to authorized up to $975 million to build the 1,000 megawatt plant, which could supply electricity to about 580,000 homes. 

The plant will be the seventh combined-cycle gas plant the TVA has added to its portfolio since 2007.



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