TVA announces $1B investment plans to add 1,500 MW of natural gas capacity

Published on July 09, 2021 by Chris Galford

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Following an environmental review, the Tennessee Valley Authority announced plans this week to invest $1 billion into the building of new, lower-emission, natural gas-fueled combustion turbines (CTs) at former coal plants in Alabama and Kentucky.

The 1,500 MW resulting from these six CT units in total (three for each state) will serve two purposes: revamping coal-era facilities and replacing natural gas capacity from other CT units slated for retirement. Currently, TVA maintains 108 natural gas and fuel oil-fired generators at 17 sites across Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Kentucky. Together, they represent a capacity of more than 12,000 MW.

“As we continue to evolve our generation portfolio, natural gas is the right choice at this time because it provides the flexibility and reliability we need to add more solar energy,” Jacinda Woodward, senior vice president of TVA’s Power Operations, said. “Current and retired coal plant sites are prime locations for new gas generation because the electrical infrastructure is already in place.”

TVA intends to continue investing in natural gas in the future. Like many utilities, however, it is also working to incorporate greater solar operations — it is considering swapping its remaining coal fleet and adding around 10,000 MW of solar by 2035 — it considers natural gas a reliable electricity source compared to the more intermittent nature of its renewable counterparts.

“TVA is a national leader, with 63 percent carbon-free generation and nearly 50 percent more renewable energy generation than our next closest regional peer,” Woodward said. “Natural gas helps us achieve a 70 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, 80 percent by 2035, and we believe it is possible, with new technologies, to achieve net-zero by 2050.”

For this reason, natural gas is likely to continue as TVA’s expansion as a replacement generation source.