The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Thursday, 20 July 2023 15:39

Citizens continue call for TVA to adopt sustainable alternatives to coal plants

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IMG 6655Citizens are objecting to plans to replace the coal boilers at Kingston Fossil Plant with natural gas.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

Solar? Gas? Future of Kingston plant up in the air

KINGSTON — Tennessee Valley Authority is considering whether to go with gas or solar power after it closes the infamous Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee.

The plant has stood since 1955 in Roane County. The federal utility plans to close Kingston Fossil plant and is looking at ways to replace the power it generated. It’s asking the public for comments. The utility’s proposals center around replacing the power generated by the plant with either solar generation or natural gas. One option includes replacing the coal-powered plant at the site with a fossil gas plant.

TVA recently proposed to retire three units between 2026 and 2031 and the other six units between 2027 and 2033. Ash spilled from a dike at this plant in 2008. A lawsuit was recently resolved surrounding the health damage to people working on cleaning up the spill. TVA has identified trouble with starting up and shutting down the plant for power generation and technical issues with lower boilers as the reasons for closing the plant, not the spill.

“We’re intentionally keeping it separate,” TVA Public Relations Specialist Scott Brooks said regarding the issues of what to do with the coal ash and how to replace the plant’s power generation. He did say TVA will have to monitor the ash for at least 30 years. “We can never just walk away,” he said.

In a recent draft Environmental Impact Statement, TVA looked at three options: keeping the plant running as is, building a combined cycle gas plant at the same location as the old plant or building solar and battery storage facilities mostly at other locations. The utility referred to the natural gas option as the “preferred alternative” due to the speed at which the utility could pull it off. TVA stated it could have the gas plant ready by 2027. The utility claimed in the meantime running this gas plant would allow for “flexibility” to add 10,000 megawatts of solar onto the system by the end of 2035.

The utility shared renderings of these plans at showing a possible route for a natural gas pipeline from private Canadian company Enbridge. As an expansion of a previous natural gas line, it would be a continuation stretching from Trousdale County to the former Kingston Fossil Plant site.

Earlier, at the same meeting, environmental groups Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Voices offered their own presentation to citizens. They argued a natural gas plant would create fewer jobs than renewables or other options for developing the site and spoke about TVA’s estimate of 1.7 million tons of air pollution from natural gas compared to none from solar and battery storage. Other criticisms focused on the areas the proposed pipeline and its right of way might cross, including 567 bodies of water.

Chelsea Bowling, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, accused the utility of looking at natural gas more in depth than solar, even though it has yet to officially decide.

Natural gas does pollute less than coal, but that’s a low bar,” she said.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 05 December 2023 12:26