GA Power preps for Plant Yates conversion
by Sarah Fay Campbell
The decommissioning and conversion of Plant Yates is still a year away, but work to prepare for the change has already begun.
Plant Yates, located on Hwy. 16 West, will stop burning coal by April 2015.
Units 6 and 7, the largest at the plant, will be converted to burn natural gas. The units are equipped to burn gas during peak times, but work will be needed to allow this to be done full-time.
Though natural gas burns clean compared to coal, oxidation catalyst systems will be installed, under permitting requirements for projects in the Atlanta Ozone Nonattainment Area.
Units 1 through 5, built in the 1950s, will be retired and decertified.
Currently, “we are in the detail engineering and major equipment procurement phase,” said Brian Green of Georgia Power.
Yates isn’t the only Georgia Power plant going through major changes.
Plant Branch on Lake Sinclair near Milledgeville, Plant Kraft near Savannah, and Plant McManus in Brunswick are being completely shut down.
Georgia Power is also decertifying a small oil-fired unit at Plant Bowen near Cartersville, and units 2 and 3 at Boulevard in Chatham County, and converting four units at Plant Gaston to natural gas.
These are some of the oldest, dirtiest, and least efficient power plants. The changes are required for Georgia Power to remain in compliance with the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
For several plants, it was more cost effective to shut down than to complete pollution control upgrades necessary to bring the facilities into compliance.
Georgia Power is upgrading many of its other plants to meet the MATS standards, including nearby Plant Wansley on the Heard/Carroll county line.
In its filing with the Georgia Public Service Commission last year, Georgia Power said that, even with the plant shutdowns, the company would have plenty of excess generating capacity – more than twice as much as the PSC requires.
When the changes at Yates were announced, Georgia Power said that the staff at the power plant would be trimmed from 224 to 106.
No layoffs are expected at any of the plants.
“We remain committed to an opportunity for all impacted employees to continue their employment with Georgia Power,” said Green. “As we’ve stated before, employee reductions at Yates are expected to be achieved through attrition and transfer opportunities to other company facilities.”
At Yates and the other plants, “we are taking a comprehensive approach to handling workforce transition in addition to developing plans on how the units will be decommissioned.”
At Yates, there are coal ash ponds, a coal ash landfill, and a gypsum landfill from the “scrubber” pollution control on Unit 1.
The landfills and ponds will be “closed” and there are requirements for long-term monitoring, Green said.