The week brought news of more closures or cancellations related to coal-fired generation. Exelon Corp. said it would permanently shut down four older units—a total capacity of 933 MW—in Pennsylvania; Progress Energy announced the closure of 11 North Carolina units in a shift to burning natural gas; and cost increases for an Ohio plant are prompting American Municipal Power to consider a combined-cycle gas plant instead.

Exelon to Retire 933 MW of Coal-Fired Capacity

Exelon said today (Dec. 2) that it would permanently retire Units 1 and 2 at Cromby Generating Station and Units 1 and 2 at Eddystone Generating Station by May 2011, citing decreased power demand, oversupply of natural gas, and increasing operating costs.

The company said it had notified regional grid operator PJM Interconnection that Eddystone Station would remain in service, operating six units capable of generating 820 MW, but that Cromby Station would close when its units permanently retire.

The four units, all in suburban Philadelphia, are no longer economic to operate and are not required to meet shrinking demand for electricity in the region, Exelon said in a statement, adding that PJM must review whether the retirement of the units creates reliability issues.

“Only the most efficient and lowest cost units can consistently compete in the wholesale markets. Unfortunately, these aging units are no longer efficient enough to compete with newer resources,” said Doyle Beneby, senior vice president of Exelon Power. “These units faced a difficult year economically in 2009, and we expect the forces that contributed to the difficulties to continue for an extended period of time. Those forces include increasing capital expenditures and decreased demand for electricity.”

The closures will cut about 280 jobs, 220 positions located at the two power stations. The remainder are at the company’s Kennett Square, Pa., headquarters.

Cromby Generating Station is on the Schuylkill River in Phoenixville, Pa. Cromby Unit 1 and Unit 2 were placed in service in 1954 and 1955, respectively. Unit 1 is a 144-MW coal-fired unit and Unit 2 is a 201-MW unit that operates on either natural gas or No. 6 fuel oil.

Eddystone Generating Station is on the Delaware River in Eddystone, Pa., Unit 1 is a 279-MW coal-fired unit and Unit 2 is a 309-MW coal-fired unit; both were placed in service in 1960. Two 380-MW peaking units that run on either natural gas or oil and four oil-burning units that produce a total of 60 MW will continue to be available for operation.

Progress Energy to Close Down 11 Power Plants

Progress Energy Carolinas on Monday announced that it would permanently shut down all of its remaining North Carolina coal-fired power plants that do not have flue gas desulfurization controls (scrubbers) by 2017.

In a report filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the utility outlined its plan to close a total of 11 coal-fired units, totaling nearly 1,500 MW at four sites in the state: the 600-MW L.V. Sutton Plant near Wilmington; the 316-MW Cape Fear Plant near Moncure; the 172-MW W.H. Weatherspoon Plant near Lumberton; and the 397-MW H.F. Lee Plant near Goldsboro.

The announcement follows an order from the regulatory agency that required the company to submit retirement plans related to “unscrubbed” coal-fired units in North Carolina. The request was part of the commission’s approval in October of Progress Energy Carolinas’ plan to build a 950-MW power plant fueled by clean-burning natural gas, in Wayne County, N.C.

The commitment represents about 30% of the company’s coal-fired power generation fleet in North Carolina, the company said. The closures are expected to result in “significant emission reductions, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and other pollutants.”

“This is a significant commitment to clean air in our state and a major down-payment on our company’s carbon-reduction strategy,” said Bill Johnson, chairman, president and CEO-Progress Energy. “Within seven years, we expect to retire nearly one-third of our coal fleet in North Carolina.”

To date, the company has announced a plan to build new generation fueled by natural gas in Wayne County, N.C., and expects to announce additional gas plans in the near future. The company will continue to operate three coal-fired plants in North Carolina after 2017, but it stressed that it has invested more than $2 billion in installing state-of-the-art emission controls at the 2,424-MW Roxboro Plant and the 742-MW Mayo Plant, both located in Person County, and the 376-MW Asheville Plant in Buncombe County.

American Municipal Power Pulls Plug on $3 Billion Coal Project

American Municipal Power (AMP) last week said that an unexpected 37% increase in its proposed $3 billion American Municipal Power Generating Station project currently under development in Meigs County, Ohio, will likely force the company to explore the project as a natural gas combined-cycle facility.

Some 81 AMP member communities in Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia are participants in the power plant project. The facility had been under development about six years as a pulverized coal facility with ammonia scrubbing emission control technology. The Columbus-based nonprofit power supplier said that it would supplement the facility with market purchases and pursue future enhancements for the project, such as biomass.

“The AMP Board of Trustees and AMPGS Participants determined it was in the best interest of the member participants to give termination notice to the engineer-procure-construct (EPC) contractor, emission control and other equipment vendors on pulverized coal construction and equipment,” the company said. “The decision was the result of a November 2009 unexpected approximately 37 percent increase in the EPC contractor’s indicated capital cost for the project including air emission control vendor costs. This 37 percent increase over the indicated capital cost estimated in May 2009 made pursuing alternatives, including conversion to natural gas combined cycle and taking advantage of current power supply offers, the best economic decision.”

Sources: Exelon, Progress Energy, AMP