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JOHNSONVILLE, Tenn. – A loud boom and a cloud of dust, that’s what residents of Johnsonville, Tennessee heard and saw when the Tennessee Valley Authority imploded the 600-foot smokestack of its oldest coal-fired power plant. The implosion clears the site for future development and a possible generation project that could advance clean-energy technologies.

You can watch a video of the implosion here.

“I’m sad to see it go,” said Bob Joiner, a TVA retiree who worked at the plant for more than three decades and watched the implosion. “That plant was built in the ‘40s by the greatest generation. They put all that together with nothing but pencils, paper, and slide rules, and it was built to last.”

The plant generated its first electricity in 1951 and its last on New Year’s Eve of 2017.  

Roger Waldrep, TVA vice president of Major Projects said, “Safety is our primary mission, and I’d like to thank the team who were able to complete this portion of the project without any issues.”

Johnsonville’s New Future

20 combustion turbines currently sit at the site, a number of which will be retired as new, more efficient natural gas generators. The utility conditionally approved placing advanced light-weight combustion turbines at the site pending environmental reviews starting in 2022.

TVA is also eyeing Johnsonville’s combustion turbines for a possible carbon-capture demonstration. The project could identify ways to lower the cost of carbon utilization technologies, and potentially help advance future hydrogen generation technologies.

Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO said, “TVA is a technology leader, and our coal sites can serve as a testbed as we build cleaner energy systems that drive jobs and investment into our communities.”

This month, TVA announced its investment of $1 billion to build new lower-emission, natural gas-fueled combustion turbines at shuttered coal plants in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and Paradise, Kentucky.

Value of Clean Energy

TVA has retired six coal plants since 2012, reducing the amount of energy produced by coal to about 14 percent. The utility says it could retire its entire coal fleet by 2035 – pending necessary approvals.

As TVA phases out coal, the utility is investing in solar, nuclear, and natural gas. They are also exploring advanced clean-generation technologies, and upgrades to its hydro-electric fleet.

By 2035, TVA plans to add about 10,000 megawatts of solar power. They plan to use natural gas to keep the power system reliable as coal plants retire.