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US Coal Fleet Is Shrinking. What to do with Retired Coal-Fired Power Plants?

tanners-creekCoal-fired power plants are being retired across the US as utilities look to cheaper natural gas and clean energy sources to produce electricity.

Coal made up more than 80 percent of retired electricity generating capacity in 2015, according to the US Energy Information Administration, which calls this a “relatively high amount compared with recent years.” The exact number is 94 coal plants, with a combined net summer capacity of 13,556 megawatts. Another 41 coal plants, with a combined net summer capacity of 5,326.5 megawatts, are slated to close this year.

And the Clean Power Plan, currently tied up in court, would accelerate coal retirements, the EIA projects.

So what to do with these retired coal-fired power plants? In Indiana, developers and state officials plan to turn one into a port.

Brownfield redevelopment firm Commercial Development Company (CDC) and its affiliate, Environmental Liability Transfer, have purchased the 725-acre Tanners Creek retired coal-fired power plant from Indiana Michigan Power, a unit of American Electric Power (AEP).

The Tanners Creek power plant is located in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, at the intersection of three Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. The site has direct riverfront access to the Ohio River, connections to highway and rail, and is located within close proximity to major hub cities such as Cincinnati, Louisville, Columbus, and Indianapolis.

Earlier this month, the Ports of Indiana identified the retired power plant site as a prime location for the state’s fourth port. CDC is currently working with the ports to determine the logistical viability of developing a port at the site and says the Ports of Indiana will have the exclusive opportunity to investigate the site for port development.

Rich Cooper, CEO for the Ports of Indiana, said the ports have “already had inquiries from companies that may have interest in locating or shipping products at this site, which is definitely encouraging for future development.”

EnviroAnalytics Group, another CDC affiliate company, will now begin a series of remediation projects including soil and groundwater remediation, asbestos abatement, ash pond closure, removal of residual coal, environmental monitoring, and demolition of most of the existing structures. The company expects the remediation work to take three to five years. Once it is completed, the site will be ready for vertical development.

The Tanners Creek power plant was decommissioned in May 2015. AEP says by the middle of this year it will have retired about 6,500 megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity as part of its plan for complying with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for existing power plants.

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One thought on “US Coal Fleet Is Shrinking. What to do with Retired Coal-Fired Power Plants?

  1. For many of these retired/retiring coal facilities; why not install solar-heat-harvesting mirror fields, and continue to use the already-existing boilers and water&steam piping infrastructure, along with the pre-existing power turbines; to turn all these retired coal plants into solar-energy-producing plants? Sure, their output will be smaller than the original fossil fuel nameplate capacities; but with all that pre-existing infrastructure already bought and paid for it would be a shame to not pursue this residual green and renewable energy option. This suggestion only assumes that the coal plant site footprint is large enough to accommodate the required solar collection area.

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