The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is considering replacing the Allen Fossil Plant on Presidents Island, which produces power through three coal-fired units, with a new natural-gas fired plant in the same area. Memphis Light Gas & Water purchases power for the area through the TVA. The Allen Fossil Plant was completed in 1959 by Memphis Light, Gas and Water and purchased by TVA in 1984. It produces 4.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to supply 340,000 homes.
The TVA outlined their plans in a draft environmental assessment looking at ways to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at its Allen Fossil Plant. In April 2011, the TVA entered into agreements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several states and environmental groups to reduce coal emissions.
The agency is considering either installing flue gas desulfurization systems (better known as scrubbers) at the Allen Fossil Plant to reduce emissions or just retiring it altogether by December 2018.
In a 2010 Memphis Flyer story on Shelby County's worst polluters, TVA's Allen Fossil Plant topped the list with emissions of more than 1.3 million pounds of pollutants in 2008, the most recent data available at that time. Data from 2013 shows that the Allen plant emitted over 4.7 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that year, and the facility is also home to coal ash impoundments that contain over 417 million gallons of toxic coal ash.
Scott Banbury, the Sierra Club conservation programs coordinator for the Tennessee chapter, wishes the TVA would look into solar and wind power rather than replacing the Allen plant with a natural gas plant.
"[In the environmental assessment], they totally leave out putting solar, like the project Bioworks is working on with the city to try and put solar panels on our buildings and all of the potential for putting solar power into the brownfield sites that we have around town, where we have empty lots, many already paved and equipped with drainage. They’re missing out on that," Banbury said. "And they’re missing that this could be an economic boon to Memphis if we were to make decisions now about getting our power from renewable alternative sources."
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy applauded TVA's proposal to retire the 55-year-old coal plant, but they would also like to see TVA put more focus on alternative and renewable power rather than natural gas.
“We welcome TVA’s decision to retire the old and inefficient Allen coal plant,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Moving away from coal is the right decision for both public health and the environment. TVA has options on how to replace this coal plant, and we understand that natural gas is one of those options. However, we believe that TVA should take a broader perspective on replacement and look at both renewable and energy efficiency opportunities that could further reduce the use of fossil fuels in the greater Memphis area.”
There's a 30-day public comment period on the proposal. Comments can be submitted online, mailed, or emailed by August 5th. There will be a public comment meeting on Tuesday, July 8th at Amtrak Central Station downtown from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.