The Tennessee Valley Authority could invest nearly $1.1 billion in nearby power plants to ensure continued production of clean electricity for its customers, which include Bowling Green Municipal Utilities and Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. The projects also provide an economic impact.

The project to install a new emissions scrubbing system at TVA’s plant in Gallatin, Tenn., and some mostly routine maintenance work in Muhlenberg County will mean jobs for an additional 1,300 to 1,400 people.

“We are contacting the union halls in those communities and when they fill all the jobs they can, we are going out further into the region,” said Scott Brooks, a TVA spokesman.

Rosemary Bates, special projects director for the city of Gallatin, said there are about 400 construction workers in town now and another wave of 300 are expected to begin arriving in November.

“By spring, there could be a total of 1,000,” she said. “Some people are already living here in Gallatin and frequenting our restaurants and convenience stores. Knowing that some may choose to live here for a while ... we had a public meeting and invited all the businesses to come to City Hall. ... We shared with them a timeline of when the work will occur and that they could be here for up to two years.”

Businesses are trying to cash in on some of those new residents by putting information, gifts, coupons, maps and other items in gift bags for the new, if only temporary, residents.

“We know it will have an impact,” Bates said of the influx of people.

Brooks sent an informational slide that showed the construction workers at the plant would have a payroll of $220 million during the work period. 

Jim Smith, general manager of construction for the Gallatin Clean Air project, said the goal of the project is to produce electricity from coal producing emissions that are 90 percent cleaner than what is currently produced at the plant.

Workers – some of which arrived on site in March – have poured foundations for three of four large generating units, and workers are fabricating the steel that will go in them. They also have erected the shell of what is one of Gallatin’s tallest edifices – a 379-foot tall chimney, that scrubs the emissions. Currently the plant has 400-foot tall stacks, that will be bypassed once the scrubber is complete in early 2015, Smith said. 

Smith said one of his jobs will be to ensure the project comes in under the $1.1 billion that the board authorized in spending.

The improvements at the plant, which are expected to be entirely complete by 2017, aren’t actually increasing its generation capacity. In fact, the capacity will be somewhat lessened because of the power that will be diverted to operate the scrubbers, Brooks said.

The project will bring TVA into compliance with new EPA standards for mercury and other toxins. It also will comply with TVA agreements regarding future Nashville ozone limits.

The project at Paradise just began this month and already is having an impact there, although on a much smaller scale.

“In Central City, the number of contractors greatly impacts all the businesses, restaurants, hotels, service centers,” said Scott Fallecker, plant manager there. “We stay pretty engaged with our local officials so that they understand what is going on.”

What is going on is a planned 54-day outage of one of the generating units.

“We are doing maintenance and repairs to Unit 3 boiler turbine,” Fallecker said. “With a coal-fired unit, we take it offline every 24 months to 36 months to perform some major maintenance.”

This time, they also are upgrading some of the unit’s systems. A normal maintenance check will cost about $16 million, and this one will cost about $42 million.

“On a day-to-day basis, we have 370 employees,” he said. “During a major outage we have an additional 300 to 400 contractors on site. There is definitely an economic effect to the local economy. Because people already can’t get a motel near the plant, I heard they are going to Bowling Green.”

The maintenance and upgrades will extend the life of the unit.

“It has 30 or more years left,” Fallecker said.

Brooks said coal will always be an important part of TVA’s power mix. The Paradise plant gets more than 80 percent of its coal from Western Kentucky.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a statement saying earlier in the week he urged TVA’s CEO Bill Johnson to maintain coal operations at Paradise. McConnell, hinting at a possible closure of Paradise, said Muhlenburg couldn’t handle such a blow with the planned retirement in 2016 of a Kentucky Utilities plant there.

Brooks said TVA is looking at options for two of the three generating stations there but is not considering closure. Those options include doing nothing, adding a new jet fabric filtration system, installing natural gas-fired generators or do a combination of filters and gas generators.

“TVA is evaluating all options for the generating fleet,” he said in an email. “Our goal remains providing low-cost affordable, reliable power for Tennessee Valley ratepayers as decisions are made about plants. Paradise has been and will continue to be an important part of TVA’s service to the Tennessee Valley. ... ”

— Robyn L. Minor covers business, environment, transportation and other issues. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/bowserminor or visit bgdailynews.com.

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