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TVA Takes Its Last Coal-Fired Unit Offline At Western Kentucky Power Plant

Becca Schimmel

The Tennessee Valley Authority shut down the last operating unit at its coal-fired power plant in western Kentucky over the weekend.

The TVA board of directors voted last year to retire the unit at the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County.

For more than 50 years, the Paradise Fossil Plant has kept the lights on for nearly ten million customers across seven southeastern states, including Kentucky and Tennessee.

Unit 3 was one of the biggest power plants in the world when it came online in 1970.  TVA determined that it could generate or buy cheaper and cleaner power from other sources rather than continuing to rely upon its aging, coal-fired unit.

Engineering Manager Jim Phelps says the plant near the Green River broke several records for run times, and Unit 3 offered environmental protection with the installation of the largest air emissions scrubber in the world.

"Everyone’s had a great sense of pride as far as operating the unit safely and reliable, so bittersweet would be the best way to describe it," Phelps told WKU Public Radio.

The other two coal-fired units at Paradise were retired in 2017 and replaced by a natural gas plant next to the fossil plant.

TVA is working with 110 employees at Unit 3 to find other positions within the fleet or to retire.  Some will remain at the site over the next two years as a transition team.

Environmental reviews are underway to determine whether the Paradise location can be used for natural gas generation.

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