As part of its effort to fully retire its coal fleet by 2030, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has retired its Bull Run coal-fired plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

In February 2019, the TVA Board of Directors approved the retirement of Bull Run by December 2023. TVA officials said at the time that hundreds of millions of dollars would be saved in compliance and environmental upgrade costs by closing the plants.

TVA says it is currently evaluating the future use of the Bull Run site, including potential opportunities to maintain grid stability based on its strategic geographic location in the TVA service territory, including the potential for battery storage or the installation of synchronous condensers to support the stability of the transmission grid.  With TVA reducing its reliance on coal, the enterprise aims to build new generating assets to replace retiring megawatts. 

The TVA heard a vast amount of responses from its customers and stakeholders concerning its decision, both good and bad. The TVA released a Q&A about the Bull Run plant on its website in response to many questions and concerns raised over the decision process.

TVA’s Bull Run Fossil Plant (Credit: TVA)

Bull Run was the only single-generator coal-fired power plant in the TVA system before its retirement. When the generator went into operation in 1967, it was the largest in the world in the volume of steam produced. The plant was originally designed to produce up to 950 MW with a recent summer net capability to generate up to 765 MW, and the unit’s cross-compound turbogenerators from General Electric could produce a yearly total of 6 billion KWh.

After the sharp increase of power demand due to military needs in the 1950s, subsequent non-military demand required additional generation resources near Knoxville, Tennessee. In March 1961, President John F. Kennedy agreed with TVA Chairman Herbert Vogel’s decision to build Bull Run.

Construction began a year later and commercial operations began on June 12, 1967. The original construction cost was $141,483,000 – or about $1.4 billion today.

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