Tennessee coal plant to be replaced by natural gas facility

By Jack Burke11 January 2023

Cumberland Fossil Plant is largest coal-fired asset in TVA portfolio

the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will retire the Cumberland Fossil Plant and replace generation for one unit with a natural gas plant. (Image: TVA)

The Cumberland Fossil Plant in the US state of Tennessee will be replaced by a 1450 MW combined-cycle natural gas facility by 2026, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has decided.

The TVA is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power companies, serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states.

The Cumberland Fossil Plant is the largest generating asset in the TVA coal fleet and is located in Stewart County, Tennessee. It powers approximately 1.1 million homes.

“TVA is aggressively pursuing a sustainable, clean energy future while maintaining our commitment to providing affordable, reliable energy,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO. “Energy security begins with the diversification of energy sources, and TVA has one of the nation’s most diverse, cleanest energy systems, including nuclear, solar, hydro, gas, and advanced technologies.

“This decision is based on a thorough environmental and public review process that ensures we meet the growing energy needs of this region.”

TVA follows the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – a longstanding federal process – which ensures public participation and input and a robust review of all feasible options.

TVA’s two-unit coal-fired Cumberland Fossil Plant will retire in two stages – with one unit by the end of 2026 and the second unit by the end of 2028. Before the first unit retires, TVA will build a 1450 MW combined cycle plant on the Cumberland reservation to be in operation by 2026. Replacement generation for the second unit has been deferred to allow consideration for a broader range of replacement options.

The construction of the combined-cycle natural gas plant at Cumberland will deliver up to a 60% reduction in carbon emissions from the site.

“Replacing retired generation with a natural gas plant is the best overall solution because it’s the only mature technology available today that can provide firm, dispatchable power by 2026 when the first Cumberland unit retires – dispatchable, meaning TVA can turn it off and on as the system requires the power,” Lyash said. “In addition, natural gas supports continued reduction of carbon emissions by enabling the integration of renewables, such as solar and battery storage, all while maintaining system reliability.”

TVA’s decarbonization initiatives include:

  • Achieving a 57% reduction in mass carbon emissions from the 2005 level while executing a path to an 80% reduction by 2035.
  • Adding 10 000 MW of solar energy by 2035.
  • Issuing the industry’s largest-ever – 5000 MW – clean-energy request for proposals last June.

“I’m proud of the Cumberland team,” said Travis Patterson, Cumberland Plant Manager. “We’ve done a tremendous job facing the challenges of increased environmental regulations and the demand for more flexible operation. We’ll continue to do great work, and Cumberland will remain an important part of the fleet until its slated retirement.”

TVA will continue to evaluate the coal fleet for retirement and replacement generation. Currently, Kingston Fossil Plant is undergoing an environmental review to determine the potential impacts of retirement and replacement. A draft Environmental Impact Statement is projected in Spring/Summer 2023.

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