TVA chooses natural gas to replace the Cumberland coal plant

The Tennessee Valley Authority has selected a combined cycle natural gas power plant to replace the Cumberland coal-fired plant in Cumberland City, 45 miles northwest of Nashville. There will be a minimum 30-day period before TVA CEO,Jeff Lyash makes a final decision on whether to accept the recommendation.

The Cumberland Fossil Plant is TVA's largest coal-fired power plant. The plant generates enough energy to power 1.1 million homes each year. TVA intends to retire the one of the plant's units by 2026 and the second by the end of 2028 as part of its plan to phase out its remaining five coal-fired plants.

TVA evaluated whether to replace the plant with a combined cycle gas plant, solar and battery technology, a simple cycle gas plant or continuing to burn coal.

TVA's preferred alternative is a combined cycle gas plant that will generate about 1,450 megawatts. The plant will require a new 32-mile gas pipeline that will be built from Dickson County to the plant in Stewart County by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline company, nationally known as Kinder Morgan.

If Lyash chooses gas, the plant's construction would begin in 2023 and should be operational by 2026.

Gas, like coal, is a fossil fuel and continues to contribute to climate change by releasing carbon dioxide emissions when the fuel is burned, as well as methane emissions, a more potent greenhouse gas, that are released along the supply chain.

TVA's commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 – meaning the utility will release no more carbon dioxide into the environment than it removes – will depend on future technology such as carbon capture, small modular nuclear reactors, hydrogen fuel and increased investment in solar and battery technology, especially if it continues on its path to replace coal plants with natural gas plants.

"Natural gas provides the flexibility needed to reliably integrate renewables. Battery storage technology doesn’t currently provide the output duration needed to support system needs when solar is unavailable. Natural gas is needed to produce power during early morning winter peaks or during overcast or rainy days,” Jacinda Woodward, senior vice president of TVA Power Operations, said on TVA's web page for the Cumberland Environmental Review.

TVA's push for gas over solar for Cumberland has been met with widespread criticism and questions not only from environmental groups but also from other federal agencies, such as the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, when TVA first released its draft environmental impact statement.

As it continues to retire it's coal plants, TVA is set to investigate whether the Kingston coal-fired plant will also be replaced by a natural gas plant. TVA is set to retire the Bull Run coal-fired plant by the end of 2023.

Anila Yoganathan is a Knox News investigative reporter. You can contact her at, and follow her on Twitter @anilayoganathan. Enjoy exclusive content and premium perks while supporting strong local journalism by subscribing at

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: TVA chooses natural gas to replace the Cumberland coal plant