TVA board members learned this week that construction on the high-efficiency, combined-cycle natural gas plant will begin later this year, with a targeted completion date of summer 2017. The new facility is expected to have the capacity to generate 1,000 megawatts of power, comparable in scope to the two coal-fired plants that were built nearly 60 years ago.
TVA spokesman Scott Brooks told The Daily News the new plant will ensure power stability on the northern end of the energy cooperative’s power grid and meet federal environmental regulatory requirements.
“It’s important that we try to maintain capacity,” Brooks said. “This is still an investment in Muhlenberg County and central Kentucky where coal is going to remain an important part of our portfolio. We’re trying to achieve a balance of nuclear, coal, gas and hydro power.”
TVA provides power to 9 million consumers in a seven-state area.
When finished, the gas plant will have three combustion turbines through which hot gas and exhaust will expand and turn a generator.
Paradise’s largest coal-fired plant, Unit 3, will remain in service, generating 1,150 megawatts of power.
TVA announced in November its intention to build the gas plant to replace two coal plants. Brooks said a large-scale, multi-year project had been envisioned from the outset.
The construction project is expected to employ 800 to 900 contractors and TVA employees on site.
The natural gas plant at Paradise follows similar plants that opened at TVA’s Lagoon Creek and John Sevier sites in Tennessee and represent a broader effort to provide cleaner power to consumers.
“It’s a big deal to build something of that magnitude,” said TVA board member Pete Mahurin of Bowling Green, Ky.
Coal has long been a staple of Muhlenberg County’s economy, but technological developments have enabled natural gas to become more abundant and less costly as a power source.
“From the TVA perspective, it’s about what can you do to best serve your customers,” Mahurin said.