POWER Notebook: Alabama Power Says Closing Coal Plant Will Cost $740 Million

Several developments worldwide impacted the power generation landscape in the past week, including more news about the closure of a coal-fired power plant in Alabama, the restart of a geothermal facility in Hawaii, and construction of a biomass-fueled power plant in Japan. In addition, a company said it plans a $150 million investment in three new solar power projects in Georgia.

Alabama Power: Customers on Hook for Costs of Closing Coal Plant

Alabama Power last week said its customers will see higher bills in order for the utility to repay about $740 million in costs related to the upcoming closure of one of its coal-fired power plants. Southern Company, the parent of Alabama Power, in a recent regulatory document filing said it plans to recover investment costs from the William Crawford Gorgas Electric Generating Plant through customers’ electric bills. The plant is located in Walker County near Parrish, Alabama.

Alabama Power said the plant’s retirement is due to “federally driven environmental mandates.” The utility said it spent more than $400 million since 2010 on upgrades aimed at keeping the plant in compliance with federal environmental laws. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) in 2018 proposed a $1.25 million fine against Alabama Power for violations of state clean water laws related to coal ash ponds at some of the utility’s plants, including Plant Gorgas. The ADEM said the fines were for discharge of pollutants into groundwater and soil.

Puna Geothermal Plant Could Restart by Year-End

An executive with Nevada-based Ormat Technologies, which owns the Puna Geothermal Venture power plant on the island of Hawaii, has said the company plans to restart operations at the 38-MW facility by the end of the year. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald on March 3 reported that Ormat CEO Isaac Angel made the statement in a financial report from the company last week. The Puna geothermal plant was shut down last year during the eruption of the Kilauea volcano. The plant had provided about 25% of the island’s power prior to its shutdown in May 2018.

Lava destroyed a substation and covered some of the plant’s geothermal wells during the eruption. An access road also was damaged by lava, and cut off access to the plant. That road has been rebuilt, and a new well has been drilled. Equipment from the mainland U.S. also has been brought in to get the plant back online. The Tribune-Herald reported that the equipment is awaiting connection to the grid operated by Hawaii Electric Light, with tests scheduled once the plant is connected. The plant’s operator also plans to unplug wells that were closed as the lava approached last year.

Toshiba Plans Biomass Plant in Japan

Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corp. this weekend said it will build a thermal power plant using imported biomass as fuel. The plant, located in Omuta City in Fukuoka Prefecture, will include two, 22-MW boilers. It will be built adjacent to the existing Mikawa power plant, a biomass-fueled facility owned by Toshiba affiliate Sigma Power Ariake Co. Ltd. The new plant is expected to use imported palm shells as fuel. It is scheduled to begin operation in early 2022.

Construction Underway on Solar Farm in Georgia

Officials in Georgia on Feb. 28 announced that Nashville, Tennessee-based Silicon Ranch Corp. will invest $150 million in three solar power projects in the southwest part of the state. The governor’s office said a 102.5-MW solar farm already is being built in Early County, in partnership with Walton Electric Membership Corp.

That project will support Facebook’s data center in nearby Newton County and should be operational in early 2020. It will include 355,000 solar modules manufactured at Hanwha Q CELLS’ new manufacturing facility in Whitfield County, Georgia, according to a news release from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office. The governor’s office also said Silicon Ranch plans two more solar farms in Early County that will sell electricity to Green Power EMC.

POWER staff reports (@POWERmagazine).