Last call: TVA wants comments on Stewart County fossil fuel plant

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Since the 1970s, the Tennessee Valley Authority has been burning coal just west of Nashville at its Cumberland Fossil Mill in Stewart County.

The nearly 2,500 megawatt plant is the largest coal-fired plant in the Tennessee Valley and the biggest contributor to climate change in the state.

TVA plans to remove the two coal-fired units from the plant no later than 2033, depending on how quickly the utility builds a new generation.

For this new generation, TVA has outlined three options: a gas-fired combined-cycle power plant (gas plus steam engine), two simple gas-fired power plants, or solar and storage.

Individuals, entities or organizations have one more week to comment on this decision, as the public comment period ends on June 13. TVA recommends submitting them online or by email to [email protected]

TVA chose the first option, which requires a pipeline already in the pipeline, in its environmental impact study project.

In the project, TVA said it made the decision because of “economic, reliability and environmental risks”, on the premise that a gas-fired combined-cycle plant would allow the utility to build solar energy in a way reliable and remove coal-fired units sooner.

However, building a gas plant will harm the environment because burning fossil fuels causes climate change. The gas produces about half the climate pollution of coal when considering reported greenhouse gas emissions. But the government’s estimates only count emissions from direct combustion and ignore emissions from extraction, transport and end-use, which can have other environmental impacts.

Natural gas is primarily methane. When oxygen is added to the odorless gas, it burns and produces energy with the byproducts of water and carbon dioxide. For example, TVA’s Allen Fossil plant, a natural gas plant in Memphis, emitted about 1.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020, the equivalent of about 300,000 cars driven for a year. .

But methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at heating the planet, can also seep directly into the atmosphere from pipelines – and researchers are only just beginning to estimate how much with satellites.

The construction of a new gas plant also poses economic problems. The board of Nashville Electric Service, TVA’s largest customer, voted against the plan largely for business reasons.

After the comment period closes, TVA will publish its final environmental report before the end of the year. Then CEO Jeff Lyash will make the decision because TVA’s board, which has only five of the nine president-appointed seats currently filled, voted to give him autocratic power in the matter.

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