More than 350 coal-fired generators, or ~6% of U.S. power generating capacity, are too old and...


More than 350 coal-fired generators, or ~6% of U.S. power generating capacity, are too old and dirty and should be retired in favor of cleaner alternatives, according to a report from the Union of Concerned Citizens. Southern Co. (SO) has the highest number of "ripe for retirement" plants at 48, followed by the Tennessee Valley Authority's 28, and Duke Energy (DUK) with 17.
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Comments (49)
  • TruffelPig
    , contributor
    Comments (4205) | Send Message
     
    I guess utilities have it coming these days. First Sandy, now old plants that need to go.
    13 Nov 2012, 02:41 PM Reply Like
  • wigit5
    , contributor
    Comments (4365) | Send Message
     
    While I share the concern that our infrastructure is aging, I'm not sure "shut them all down now" is the right approach.
    13 Nov 2012, 02:44 PM Reply Like
  • youngman442002
    , contributor
    Comments (5123) | Send Message
     
    old and dirty..what a comment....what a economic model...liberals are supposed to be so educated too...
    13 Nov 2012, 02:53 PM Reply Like
  • snaildarter
    , contributor
    Comments (7) | Send Message
     
    Nat Gas prices is making them obsolete without regs, SO has always gotten away with being ulta conservative but I'm not sure they are in a good position on this one.
    13 Nov 2012, 02:54 PM Reply Like
  • Chazuu
    , contributor
    Comments (265) | Send Message
     
    Does anyone know what percentage of SO's power is generated by coal? I am aware that they have substantial and growing nuclear capacity.
    13 Nov 2012, 03:05 PM Reply Like
  • djweston
    , contributor
    Comments (16) | Send Message
     
    73 fossil and hydro plants, according to SO: http://bit.ly/T26T1w
    13 Nov 2012, 03:20 PM Reply Like
  • youngman442002
    , contributor
    Comments (5123) | Send Message
     
    NAT GAS is cheap today...but it wasn´t just a few short years ago..I owned Calpine....and NRG..anyone remember those great ideas...I do...we have coal...lots of it..why does the EPA want us to sell it to China???? stupid...talk about a waste of energy....and we burn it cleaner here than China does...
    13 Nov 2012, 03:39 PM Reply Like
  • wigit5
    , contributor
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    The EPA will try restrict the exporting of Coal as well so say good bye to a lot of terminal jobs and shipping jobs when that happens.
    13 Nov 2012, 03:46 PM Reply Like
  • larry1135
    , contributor
    Comments (52) | Send Message
     
    I'm sure we burn it cleaner in newer or retrofitted plants but, I’m also thinking that there are plants that are old enough that they no longer make sense as far as being updated to burn cleaner. Kind of like a car that has 250 thousand miles and gets 10mpg that needs to be repaired almost monthly it starts to make more sense to decommission and update with a newer alternative.
    1940’s battleship vs. a current day carrier which would work better and be worth maintaining for use and which would you decommission?
    13 Nov 2012, 06:18 PM Reply Like
  • kmi
    , contributor
    Comments (4563) | Send Message
     
    " say good bye to a lot of terminal jobs and shipping jobs when that happens."

     

    No matter which way we -grow- our energy infrastructure we create jobs. Any comment that suggests reducing coal in favor of nat gas is a net loss of jobs is just silly.

     

    Fact: even if we grow our energy infrastructure via solar, JOBS ARE CREATED. In fact, those are domestic jobs for domestically produced energy that is sold to domestic interests at domestically based prices.

     

    If we leave coal behind in favor of gas, drilled and sourced in the US by US (or otherwise I guess) companies, employing US workers and selling into US owned pipelines for US consumption, JOBS ARE CREATED.

     

    Think about it.
    14 Nov 2012, 08:30 AM Reply Like
  • wigit5
    , contributor
    Comments (4365) | Send Message
     
    kmi,
    I'm assuming that the current trend of blocking the export of Nat Gas will continue, and I hope you are not suggesting that solar panels (of which most are made in china) will make up for the loss in millions of tons of coal exported every year.

     

    Currently we use coal domsestically and export it, if we take away both and replace it with only domestic Nat gas use then I don't think it will make up 1 for 1 in terms of jobs lost / jobs gained.

     

    Again assuming that the export of both coal and NG is stifled I don't see how those jobs can be replaced by solar panels being made in China that (at least from what I can tell) isn't exactly a 'healthy' sector.
    14 Nov 2012, 08:52 AM Reply Like
  • kmi
    , contributor
    Comments (4563) | Send Message
     
    First of all, permitting is in place for at least one Nat gas export facility, with others under consideration. Second, the difference in price between Henry Hub Nat Gas and what Japan pays for it isn't that great after costs. Third, there are some 6 major LNG facilities already being built in Australia, with more in Indonesia and other places, way ahead of any schedule to build any here in the US. There are two in some stage of planning in Canada.

     

    Meanwhile, both China and Japan have been securing increased production from Russia, Kazakhstan and Qatar...

     

    Nat gas exports for big $$$ is a pipe dream that only works at some sub $3 NG US price.

     

    Also fyi the margin in solar is hardly in the panels but in the ancillary equipment of which GE is a big producer.

     

    Also, you claim that you don't think that removing coal exports and reducing domestic consumption will make up 1 for 1 jobs. I will tell you this: if it doesn't it will be because it isn't economical, it will be because market forces will prevail.

     

    And that's the trick isn't it. Oil supply has grown in the US dramatically, as has nat gas over the past few years, in spite of what some like to claim is the administration's obstructionism. Because the market demanded it: ~$100brl oil crushed demand and created supply, nat gas exploded starting in '07-08 as prices went parabolic.

     

    Right now, the US is decreasing coal not because of the administration or because of pollution, but because gas is simply cheaper and its plenty abundant. Supply and demand. All the rhetoric is behind the times and is playing catchup to the market.

     

    If nat gas exports are viable, the market will accommodate. If coal is viable, the market will accommodate. You can make all the political statements you want but that won't change the basics of supply, demand, and demand going where price dictates. Even if it's solar panels.
    14 Nov 2012, 09:29 AM Reply Like
  • wigit5
    , contributor
    Comments (4365) | Send Message
     
    I appreciate your point of view kmi, but I wasn't trying to make 'political' statements.

     

    Natural Gas is currently coals biggest problem, and until it's price in the US rises domestic demand for coal will remain muted.

     

    So your saying Australia which has less Nat Gas then the US is building more ports to export it then the US?
    14 Nov 2012, 09:59 AM Reply Like
  • kmi
    , contributor
    Comments (4563) | Send Message
     
    The point I'm making is that market forces are driving declines in coal consumption/coal plants in the US, not political policy.

     

    And I'm making the point that if market forces drive a decline in coal consumption domestically in favor of natural gas, who cares? Jobs will be created regardless. It's our job, on SA, to spot these trends and invest accordingly.

     

    As to the Australia thing, apples and oranges, it's not just about reserves, it's also about consumption, production, population, geography...
    14 Nov 2012, 10:25 AM Reply Like
  • freebra
    , contributor
    Comments (447) | Send Message
     
    larry,
    I'm not too sure I can agree with your 'comparisons'. Car, maybe, but I believe a battleship, at any age, cannot be replaced by a current day (aircraft) carrier. They have different objectives and functions.
    14 Nov 2012, 05:58 PM Reply Like
  • larry1135
    , contributor
    Comments (52) | Send Message
     
    Battleships have already been replaced in favor of newer hightech carriers.

     

    From wiki:
    "Some battleships remained in service during the Cold War and the last were decommissioned in the 1990s."
    15 Nov 2012, 09:22 AM Reply Like
  • freebra
    , contributor
    Comments (447) | Send Message
     
    <larry> Battleships out lived their purpose, as used in WW2, N. Korea & N. Vietnam (very limited). Never "REPLACED" by "hightech carriers". Wars are fought much differently now. Surely your 'Wiki' is correct about the decommissioning/mothba... in the 90's, but only because they were no longer needed in the modern warfare tactics.

     

    Read up on your History of Tactical Warfare, and let's get back to the original subject of fossil fuels, and yes I'm a Veteran 'Fossil' with degrees in Engineering to include Nuclear.
    15 Nov 2012, 05:38 PM Reply Like
  • larry1135
    , contributor
    Comments (52) | Send Message
     
    I was just merely pointing out that my analogy hit the nail on the head as far as you being a veteran fossil I agree you are.
    16 Nov 2012, 01:46 AM Reply Like
  • freebra
    , contributor
    Comments (447) | Send Message
     
    <larry> Still not an intelligent or accurate "analogy". Thanks for your 'Fossil' agreement (age 49 next month). Let's get back to the original subject, shall we ? I suggest you make a special effort to place a little thought in your comments, if you're capable. (also Ref: RNDY)

     

    Nuf Said
    16 Nov 2012, 10:32 AM Reply Like
  • larry1135
    , contributor
    Comments (52) | Send Message
     
    Your nothing more than a lurking troll.
    16 Nov 2012, 12:07 PM Reply Like
  • freebra
    , contributor
    Comments (447) | Send Message
     
    "Your....." ? ?

     

    Apparently, you have reached the lowest level........Name Calling. Your true character has now been revealed, (unless profanity is your next planned feeble intent).

     

    Again, please get back to the original subject, if at all possible. It's been fun pulling your chain, and I know the other commentators have enjoyed reading about our differences. Sorry, but I cannot stoop to your immature level, so I shall not respond again.
    16 Nov 2012, 06:33 PM Reply Like
  • wilkat
    , contributor
    Comments (7) | Send Message
     
    What's to understand about the Environmental Protection Agency and environmentalism? Most of their objectives have been largely accomplished except of course for the main one, which is to bring about the destruction of the capitalist system and reduce the U.S. middle class to penury. Given another four years of Obamanomics, their and his primary objective will have been accomplished. Get ready. It's coming.
    19 Nov 2012, 10:26 AM Reply Like
  • wilkat
    , contributor
    Comments (7) | Send Message
     
    What's to understand about Obama, the EPA and Environmentalism? Virtually all of their objectives have been accomplished except for the primary one. That is the destruction of Capitalism in the USofA. Given another four years of Obamanomics, that one will also have been accomplished. The middle class will have been largely reduced to penury and we will be "out of many, one" more banana republic.
    19 Nov 2012, 10:32 AM Reply Like
  • spinrbait
    , contributor
    Comments (674) | Send Message
     
    i thought aep had the most coal fired plants. these companies have been well aware of this for awhile and most have been making plans for it. i know duk has. and i think excelon is cherishing the shut downs. also duk is currently building 2 clean coal plants. i think one in ohio and one in indiana. but it is going to cost the consumer alot more.
    13 Nov 2012, 04:10 PM Reply Like
  • MexCom
    , contributor
    Comments (3066) | Send Message
     
    This isn't new news. Obviously the shorts are scared with today's uptic and want to get out. The planned decommissioning of old coal plants have been on the books for years.
    13 Nov 2012, 04:13 PM Reply Like
  • Rousseau SC
    , contributor
    Comments (284) | Send Message
     
    Why would we be overly concerned about pollution from coal in the USA and not sanction China for their pollution? China burns far more coal, if I am corect, far less cleanly and the pollution travels world-wide, to the harm of not only americans, but the entire world, including those peoples we supposedly care about. Why not lean on China to clean up their act for our health?
    13 Nov 2012, 04:16 PM Reply Like
  • kmi
    , contributor
    Comments (4563) | Send Message
     
    The reason this is even on people's radar is because gas has been cheap and for a prolonged period of time, and it has become evident that gas may continue to be so.

     

    The market has been and is making adjustments. I highly suspect that without market forces supporting a transition off coal to gas you wouldn't see any momentum behind such a transition, simply because it would be wildly unpopular. Pollution be damned.
    14 Nov 2012, 08:33 AM Reply Like
  • warrenrial
    , contributor
    Comments (548) | Send Message
     
    Build new plants we need the jobs, help rebuild America.
    13 Nov 2012, 04:18 PM Reply Like
  • Jubal04
    , contributor
    Comments (201) | Send Message
     
    I'm not sure where they get that 48 number for SO because all of their biggest units have already been (or in the process of being) scrubbed. SO has a plan for retiring several of the units that are too inefficient to compete. They have made such a significant investment in natural gas plants in recent years that their best coal units aren't running as much and the old ones, not at all.They will have plenty of excess coal capacity even if the economy comes back.
    13 Nov 2012, 04:24 PM Reply Like
  • freebra
    , contributor
    Comments (447) | Send Message
     
    Juba,
    Very true comments. A major fact that has not been addressed is that a majority of the old "coal" plants are designed to burn an alternate fuel due to fuel cost competitiveness, RR & coal strikes, efficiencies, etc. Most old and newer "coal" plants are capable of burning NG as an alternative fuel or fuel mix.
    14 Nov 2012, 05:36 PM Reply Like
  • Jubal04
    , contributor
    Comments (201) | Send Message
     
    Even SO's old nat gas boilers are on the chopping block due to their inefficiency. When the new TRIG plant in Kemper County, MS comes on-line, the old gas and coal units at Gulfport are history. Gas has to go to over $8 to make $60 coal competitive in a new combined cycle plant. SO has numerous cc's all over the south and will have a new nuc in 2016.
    15 Nov 2012, 08:54 AM Reply Like
  • wigit5
    , contributor
    Comments (4365) | Send Message
     
    @Jubal04:
    Where do you get the $8 mark for gas to be more expensive than coal at $60?

     

    We had Nat Gas at or near $8 for a while and coal was still king, so I'm just curious how you got to $8?

     

    Also, thus far it has been said that CAPP coal (the most expensive to mine) is cheaper once NatGas reaches 4.50 (almost universally).
    15 Nov 2012, 09:08 AM Reply Like
  • Jubal04
    , contributor
    Comments (201) | Send Message
     
    It has to go back to heat rate calculations. A new conbined cycle gas fired power plant has a heat rate of about 6,000 BTU/KWH (SO's new McDonough-Atkinson). Wheras a typical pulverised coal plant (SO's Bowen plant) has a heat rate of around 11,000 BTU/Kwh. $60, 12,000 BTU/lb coal (Illinois basin) works out to $2.50/MMBtu. $100 per ton delivered CAPP 12,500 Btu/lb coal works out to $4.00/ MMBtu. If you calculate the cents/Kwh final cost of fuel, thats where the $8 number comes in. The new combined cycle plant will be base loaded until gas goes over the 8$ number. As long as gas remains cheap, and the economy stays the same, the gas units will run and the coal units will be running just enough to supply the needed load. Bowen has burned as much as 9,000,000 tons of CAPP coal a year in the recent past.

     

    However, a nat gas simple cycle combustion turbine will probably have a heat rate of about 9,000 Btu/Kwh. This is where the $4.5 number comes in. The simple cycle plants were meant to be peaking plants that could be turned on and off as load changed. But because of cheap gas, they are running significantly higher amounts.

     

    Southern has been building simple cycle and combined cycle gas plants for about 17 years now. They are every where in the southeast. But also the third 900 MW gas unit at Smyrna will come on line soon. When it does, they will idle a similar sized coal unit. They announced that plant Harllee Branch will be the next to go, more than a year ago. The Billion $ plus cost of scrubbing just can't be justified when gas is cheap.
    16 Nov 2012, 08:43 PM Reply Like
  • freebra
    , contributor
    Comments (447) | Send Message
     
    Jubal,
    Your comment is commendable, and spoken as a true Engineer in Electric Generation Efficiency and Production. Been a few years since I calculated Heat Rates. Thanks for the info.
    16 Nov 2012, 09:52 PM Reply Like
  • TruffelPig
    , contributor
    Comments (4205) | Send Message
     
    Cross-Post: Check out AT, 10% yield and only one coal plant. Many nat gas and biomass plants, some wind.
    13 Nov 2012, 06:19 PM Reply Like
  • larry1135
    , contributor
    Comments (52) | Send Message
     
    Duke Energy has 11 wind farms that should help to offset the decommissioned coal plants.
    13 Nov 2012, 06:21 PM Reply Like
  • freebra
    , contributor
    Comments (447) | Send Message
     
    Not by far (yet) even including their solar. You need to compare the MWhr(s) differential and geographical locations. Duke is also negotiating with South Carolina (Santee Cooper Cooperative) to buy into 10-15% of their 1/3 of the 1,000MW Nuclear (underconstruction-Unit #2) and future 1,000MW (Unit #3) Nuclear, principally owned by SCANA (2/3). This began prior to the 'approval' of the Progress Merger. Regulatory issues remain HIGH in North Carolina and Florida over the Merger and excessive cost over-run and delayed startup at the Edwardsport generating facility Indiana. Rate increase requests remain dismal in Indiana, North Carolina, and Florida. Any outstanding requests in Ohio and Kentucky is unknown at this time. (excuse any typo's)
    14 Nov 2012, 11:06 AM Reply Like
  • larry1135
    , contributor
    Comments (52) | Send Message
     
    As I said it should HELP.
    15 Nov 2012, 09:24 AM Reply Like
  • freebra
    , contributor
    Comments (447) | Send Message
     
    "Not by far ........." ie: minimal "HELP", More PR.
    15 Nov 2012, 11:05 AM Reply Like
  • larry1135
    , contributor
    Comments (52) | Send Message
     
    yup your are so right thanks for trolling my comments.
    15 Nov 2012, 12:57 PM Reply Like
  • freebra
    , contributor
    Comments (447) | Send Message
     
    No problem ! Buy DUK soon. 5+%
    15 Nov 2012, 04:18 PM Reply Like
  • youngman442002
    , contributor
    Comments (5123) | Send Message
     
    Its going to cost a lot more...that is the bottom line...cost...
    14 Nov 2012, 08:37 AM Reply Like
  • ojm54321
    , contributor
    Comments (53) | Send Message
     
    Think about Sandy. What would the wind have done to a utility's solar and wind farms. How long would it have taken to get them back on line. Also, what about the solar on a persons house. Would the insurance company pay to have the solar panels installed again.
    14 Nov 2012, 09:14 AM Reply Like
  • wigit5
    , contributor
    Comments (4365) | Send Message
     
    On the solar panels I think it would depend on whether or not you notified your home owners insurance so they could raise the value of your property and the premium you pay.

     

    I think you are required per the contract to notify your insurance provider of any changes to the home that would change the value of the property.
    14 Nov 2012, 09:26 AM Reply Like
  • kmi
    , contributor
    Comments (4563) | Send Message
     
    ojm, I take it you think we have zero wind/solar installations here in NY?

     

    Because that would be wrong. I am personally not aware - anecdotally of course, for what that's worth - of any solar or wind installations here that got destroyed because of the fact that they were solar/wind.

     

    For that matter, many of my neighbors are actively exploring solar as a result of the power outage. My next door neighbor has already been sourcing quotes.

     

    If anything, Sandy is encouraging solar, in my area.

     

    Solarcity, which is an Elon Musk company (Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal guy), is now working through Home Depot. They guarantee the install and perform all maintenance on the installation. So if the wind did manage to blow the panels off your roof, and you had a SolarCity contract, it would be SolarCity doing the fixing.
    14 Nov 2012, 10:34 AM Reply Like
  • kmi
    , contributor
    Comments (4563) | Send Message
     
    "any changes to the home that would change the value of the property"

     

    Just to clarify a bit on that, solar panels may change the marketable value, but in many states (NY is one) by law they do not increase your assessment or taxes.
    14 Nov 2012, 10:37 AM Reply Like
  • ojm54321
    , contributor
    Comments (53) | Send Message
     
    What about solar and wind. I notice several comments about these sources of power. What would Sandy have done to them. Would these been blow away? Then what? Also, if you had solar on your roof would your insurance company replace the panels? Just another thought when you think we can transfer to alternative sources of power.
    14 Nov 2012, 12:17 PM Reply Like
  • warrenrial
    , contributor
    Comments (548) | Send Message
     
    We worry about burning coal when Obama is destroying the country anyway.
    15 Nov 2012, 04:30 PM Reply Like
  • freebra
    , contributor
    Comments (447) | Send Message
     
    So true ! The more serious problem is "Political Polution" (Obamy).
    15 Nov 2012, 04:38 PM Reply Like
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