The Tennessee Valley Authority will spend about $1 billion to install four large scrubbers and other pollution control equipment at the Gallatin Fossil Plant to reduce emissions by as much as 95 percent.
The massive upgrade is being undertaken to comply with a 2011 Clean Air Act Agreement that resolved a multistate, multiyear dispute about how the federal Clean Air Act applies to routine maintenance and equipment replacement at TVA fossil plants.
The dispute involved TVA; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina; and the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, and Our Children's Earth Foundation.
Under the agreement, TVA will invest between $3 billion and $5 billion on new pollution controls at its coal-fired power plants and retire 18 coal-fired units in Tennessee and Alabama, among other environmental efforts.
Without the upgrades at Gallatin, the plant probably won’t meet future EPA rules and will have to shut down, said plant manager Scott Hadfield, Gallatin plant manager.
TVA said it would install selective catalytic reduction systems to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions and scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions on all four Gallatin units by Dec. 31, 2017.
The TVA board approved the scrubbers for Gallatin and another TVA plant in 2011, and TVA says it is continuing “to upgrade and assess its entire fossil fleet.”
The Gallatin Fossil Plant, about 30 miles northeast of downtown Nashville, burns 13,000 tons of coal a day and produces enough electricity to power the equivalent of 300,000 homes.
Most fossil fuel-fired boilers have scrubbers today, to keep pollutants out the jet stream, Gary Hall, of Sauereisen Inc., writes in the new issue of JPCL. “Protecting Scrubbers in Power Plants: How History Stacks Up” details the many protection challenges and coatings demands of these structures.
|Protecting power plant scrubbers from acid, corrosion and other attacks has involved many approaches, JPCL reports. In the 1970s and early 1980s, engineers began to use gunited acid-resistant refractories for new construction and repairs. Some of the originally gunited stacks, like those shown here, are still in service.|
The scrubbers planned for Gallatin will each be four to five stories tall.
“SO2 is sulfur dioxide, and by removing 90 to 95 percent, it is cleaning up the atmosphere of the Tennessee Valley,” said Larry Nathan, who works with TVA’s generation construction group.
‘Doomed Coal Plant’
Not everyone is happy about the improvement project, however. Some environmental groups say TVA would save more money and see greater efficiencies in the long run if it invested in new technologies now, rather than retrofitting old facilities, The Tennessean reported recently.
“Seriously, invest the money in energy efficiency that you intend to waste on unhealthy and dangerous technologies,” Louise Gorenflo, a volunteer with the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, told the TVA board recently, the newspaper reported.
“For what you will pay for the pollution controls on a doomed coal plant, you can replace Gallatin and be well on the way to joining other modern utilities in generating energy savings.”
However, John Walke, the clean air director for the National Resources Defense Council, called the planned pollution controls effective.
And Joe Hoagland, TVA’s senior vice president of policy and oversight, told The Tennessean in an interview that the utility was also investing in new technologies in addition to the upgrades.
For now, however, the Gallatin plant performs well and is cost-effective, Hoagland told the newspaper. “It makes sense to build the controls and put them on.”