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Another Kentucky Coal Power Plant To Close

Kenn W. Kiser
Henderson, Ky. received approval from regional transmission services last week, finalizing the decision.

Henderson, Kentucky, will close its coal-fired power plant next February after nearly five decades in operation.

The plant, known as Station Two, is among a vintage of older, smaller coal plants that have been hanging on by a thread. Maintenance costs, compounded by a glut of natural gas and increasingly cheap renewable energy resources are pushing plants like Henderson’s into retirement.

Henderson crossed that line earlier this year when plant operators cut their contract with the city saying the station was no longer profitable. The city received approval from regional transmission services last week, finalizing the decision.

“There are coal plants out there that are an economic option, but our coal plant was small, thermally inefficient and quite old, so it needed a lot of investment,” said Chris Heimgartner, the utility manager for Henderson Municipal Power and Light.

There are a number of older, smaller plants that are going offline for the same reasons, Heimgartner said. Among them, is a power plant in Owensboro, Kentucky, that’s expected to close in 2020.

Coal plants that have gone offline in the last decade were on average 52 years old and producing 105 megawatts, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Even the Trump Administration’s new plans to roll back environmental regulations for coal-fired power plants would not have been enough to keep the plant running, he said.

“Yes, maybe we wouldn’t have to put some of the capital into it in the next three to five years, but you know, you have a change of administration and this does 180 then you’ve got a real problem,” Heimgartner said.

Henderson has already received bids from nearly two dozen organizations on the future of its power supply. Heimgartner said the city will look for near-term options for 2019 through 2024 while considering its ideal energy mix.

He expects that any solution the city adopts will have a lower carbon footprint than Station Two, but that’s not his customers’ major concern, he said. Heimgartner has spoken with about a dozen residents who want to know how the change could affect rates.

“My background is West coast,” Heimgartner said. “So that’s the first thing that I always look for is what’s the community reaction to it and what I’m seeing here is one that’s on an economic dimension, not an environmental dimension.”

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Ryan Van Velzer has told stories of people surviving floods in Thailand, record-breaking heat in Arizona and Hurricane Irma in South Florida. He has worked for The Arizona Republic, The Associated Press and The South Florida Sun Sentinel in addition to working as a travel reporter in Central America and Southeast Asia. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Ryan is happy to finally live in a city that has four seasons.
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