GenOn, Progress Shutter 972-MW of Coal-Fired Capacity on Oct. 1, Rocky Mountain Considers Closure

On Oct. 1, GenOn shuttered its 482-MW coal-fired Potomac River Generating Station as Progress Energy Carolinas retired three coal-fired units—two at the 316-MW Cape Fear plant near Moncure, N.C., and the 177-MW H.B. Robinson Unit 1 near Hartsville, S.C. Utah’s Rocky Mountain Power, a unit of PacifiCorp, meanwhile reportedly warned employees and public officials that it may close its 190-MW coal-fired Carbon Power Plant in northeastern Utah over the next few years because it has no room to install air emissions controls to make it compliant with federal rules by 2015.

The Potomac plant’s closure follows an August 2011 settlement agreement between the City of Alexandria, Va., and GenOn that required the Houston-based company to spend $32 million on improved stack gas and fine particulate matter controls to mitigate air quality issues in the plant vicinity or shutter the plant by Oct. 1. GenOn will get back about $32 million that the city had held in escrow for the environmental controls under an agreement signed in 2008.

At a press conference recognizing the closure of the 1949-built power plant on Monday, the City of Alexandria alleged the station had been "the single largest source of air pollutants in Northern Virginia." GenOn said it had secured all necessary approvals to close the plant from regional grid operator PJM Interconnection and PEPCO, the local public utility to which the station is interconnected. The plant employed 120 workers.

Progress Energy had announced the closures of its two shuttered coal plants in July. Built in 1923, two of Cape Fear’s six coal-fired units were retired in 1977 and two in 2011. The last two units were closed on Oct. 1. Along with the coal units, one of four oil-fueled combustion-turbine units on the site was also retired on Oct. 1. The remaining three combustion turbine units will remain open, "though their operation will generally be limited to periods of high electricity demand," Progress Energy said.

Completed in 1960, the coal-fired H.B. Robinson unit is sited adjacent to Progress Energy’s 724-MW Robinson nuclear plant, which is licensed to operate through July 2030.

Progress Energy said it has been working to minimize employee impacts resulting from its power plant retirements. Of the 113 employees at the two power plants, 79 have been placed in other positions in the company, 27 are retiring through the company’s voluntary severance program associated with Progress Energy’s merger with Duke Energy, and seven left the company prior to the merger.

Progress Energy retired its coal-fired W.H. Weatherspoon power plant near Lumberton, N.C., in 2011, and the H.F. Lee power plant near Goldsboro, N.C., in September; it plans to close another coal-fired power plant, the L.V. Sutton Plant near Wilmington, N.C., in late 2013.

Once the retirements are complete, Progress Energy Carolinas will have retired all of its coal-fired power plants that do not have advanced environmental controls. This represents more than 1,600 MW, or approximately one-third of its coal-generating fleet, the company said.

In Utah, Rocky Mountain Power could close its Carbon Power Plant, located in the narrow Castle Gate Canyon over the next two to three years because "There’s simply not enough room in the canyon here to install the scrubber (and) the fabric filter that would be required to allow it to operate past the deadline," company spokesperson Dave Eskelsen told the Deseret News on Monday.

The utility said it was looking at alternative technologies that could allow the plant to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards by 2015, and it is expected to make a decision in April. The potential power loss may be replaced with increased natural gas generation. 

Sources: POWERnews, GenOn, Progress Energy, Deseret News
—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)

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