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VOL. 129 | NO. 163 | Thursday, August 21, 2014

TVA to Replace Allen Plant With Natural Gas

By Bill Dries

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The 55-year-old Allen Fossil Plant in southwest Memphis will be replaced with a new $975 million natural gas plant to be built in the shadow of the original facility, the Tennessee Valley Authority board decided Thursday, Aug. 21, in Knoxville.

The 55-year old Allen Fossil Plant in southwest Memphis will be replaced with a $975 million power plant on the other side of Plant Road that will use natural gas to generate electricity.

(Tennessee Valley Authority)

The power plant, which was originally built by Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, generates electricity for the Memphis area and a larger part of the western region covered by the TVA.

TVA officials made the decision to abandon the coal-powered plant as it works toward a December 2018 deadline to reduce coal emissions. The deadline was a key part of a 2011 settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, three state governments and four environmental groups.

The Sierra Club, one of the organizations involved in the lawsuit, backed the decision.

Scott Banbury, conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Tennessee chapter, said in a written statement after the TVA board vote that retiring the existing plant will help those who have “long struggled with asthma – causing poor air quality and threats to local water ways.”

The recommendation to the TVA board from its staff was to build a new gas-powered plant because it would reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from the coal by nearly 100 percent and because natural gas is a reliable energy source.

“Memphis is our largest customer,” TVA president and CEO Bill Johnson said after the decision, “and we must have a proven source of generation in the city to ensure system-wide reliability while giving us flexibility that allows for future growth.”

The new plant comes with a pipeline to be built by Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division that will supply natural gas to its combustion turbines. The pipeline will go south of the new plant before making a turn to the east and running parallel to the Mississippi state line just north of the line. From there, it will hook up with existing pipeline terminals.

The exhaust from the combustion turbines at the new Allen plant will be used to run a steam turbine there as well.

As TVA gathered public comments on the proposal earlier this year, Banbury acknowledged natural gas was the best choice for a reliable energy source at the plant and a better choice than coal. But he and other environmental groups pushed for the new Allen plant to have room to use alternative energy sources, including solar and wind power.

TVA leaders evaluating their options said those other sources were considerably more expensive. Banbury countered the price of natural gas could spike.

The decision by the TVA board Thursday is to build a power plant with greater capacity than the existing plant and leave open the option of using solar and wind power and other alternative energy sources in the future.

“Clean energy technologies, like solar energy and wind power, as well as increased energy efficiency, are cheaper, cleaner and ultimately a better path forward for TVA and for Tennesseans,” Banbury said.

The decision also includes using recycled water from the Memphis Waste Water Treatment Plant, instead of water from McKellar Lake.

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