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The generator breaker for Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) Paradise Unit 3 was opened on Feb. 1, removing the coal-fired power plant from service for the final time after 50 years of operation. Notably, TVA retiree Jim Chappell performed the task. Chappell was the electrical control wing operator who originally placed Unit 3 in service.

The Paradise Fossil Plant is located on the Green River in western Kentucky near the village of Paradise. Units 1 and 2 were commissioned in 1963. At the time, they were the largest units in the world—704 MW each. The 1,080-MW Unit 3 was added in 1970.

Paradise Coal Plant Had Strong Supporters

But a lot has changed since that time. TVA invested about $1 billion to build a 1,025-MW combined cycle natural gas plant (a 2017 POWER Top Plant award winner) next to the coal plant, and Units 1 and 2 were retired in 2017. When the closure of Unit 3 was being considered in late 2018, many high-level supporters lobbied to keep it in operation.

Kentucky Gov. Matthew Bevin sent a letter to TVA’s then-CEO Bill Johnson, writing that it “would be a huge mistake” to permanently shut down Paradise Unit 3. According to the governor, “the impact on our economy and our region’s (and nation’s) long-term energy grid reliability, would be devastating.”

Even President Trump pressured TVA to keep Unit 3 in operation. On Feb. 11, 2019, he posted on Twitter, “Coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix and @TVAnews should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!” The TVA responded on Twitter that it would “give serious consideration to all factors.”

Sign of the Times

Nonetheless, after a detailed review of fuel, transmission, economic, and environmental impacts, and a thorough assessment of public input, the TVA Board of Directors approved the retirement of Paradise Unit 3 on Feb. 14, 2019. Now, less than a year later, the coal plant (Figure 1) has closed its doors.

1. Paradise Fossil Plant. Courtesy: TVA

“There’s a sense of pride and passion at the site that I’ve never seen before,” said Steve Holland, Paradise Fossil plant manager. “During its last run, everyone was supportive, volunteering to come in on their days off or work overtime. The team took ownership of the plant. That’s what makes TVA great—ownership and pride.”