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The utility wants to convert part of its Clinch River Power Plant.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Appalachian Power Co. is seeking state approval to convert one of its power plants to burn natural gas instead of coal, the result of tougher environmental regulations.
In a request to the State Corporation Commission filed Wednesday, Appalachian detailed plans to convert a portion of the Clinch River Power Plant in Russell County.
The utility first said in 2011 that switching the plant to natural gas — and closing a second power plant in Giles County — were the most cost-efficient ways to comply with new regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Wednesday’s filing with the SCC affirms those plans, Appalachian spokesman Todd Burns said.
The EPA regulations were aimed at older power plants that belch more mercury, arsenic, acid gases and other airborne toxins than allowed under current standards.
Plants built before major amendments to the Clean Air Act took effect in 1977 were not required to upgrade their environmental compliance unless they made major changes in capacity. The Clinch River plant opened in 1958. The Glen Lyn plant in Giles County — which will close in spring of 2015, Appalachian confirmed Wednesday — is nearing its 100th year in operation.
More than half of the power plants in the United States meet the new regulations, which the EPA says will prevent more than 17,000 untimely deaths a year caused by breathing air laced with fine particles and pollutants from the burning of coal to produce electricity.
At the Clinch River plant, one unit will be shut down and two more will be converted to burn natural gas.
Appalachian President and CEO Charles Patton called it “the best alternative to meet energy needs, taking into account economic and environmental considerations.”
Converting the plant will cost an estimated $65 million, an expense Appalachian will seek to recover in a future rate increase request.
If approved, the project would cost the average residential customer less than 50 cents a month once the conversion is complete, the utility said in a news release. Meanwhile, the conversion project will create about 260 short-term jobs and another 117 full-time positions.
It will also make Appalachian less dependent on coal. Once system-wide changes are complete, 69 percent of the company’s plants will be powered by coal, 19 percent by natural gas and 12 percent by wind or hydropower.
Currently, about 80 percent of Appalachian’s electricity comes from burning coal.
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