Last week, Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities announced a plan to retire three coal-fired power plants over the next four years. The plants will be replaced by facilities that burn natural gas—which is cleaner than coal. The utilities are part of a growing trend across the nation to retire older coal plants.
To most people, a gas turbine doesn’t sound any different than a jet engine, or than the sounds you’d expect to hear in a coal-fired power plant. But in terms of what this sound means for the region’s energy mix, it’s a big deal.
There are gas plants in Kentucky, but more than 90 percent of the electricity generated in the commonwealth comes from coal. Now, LG&E and KU plan to spend about $700 million building a new natural gas power plant at the Cane Run site and purchasing existing turbines in Oldham County.
“The Midwest and the Southeast, particularly, have been heavily dependent on coal-fired power plants and have been slow to adopt other technologies,” said Stephen Smith, the executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Kentucky, West Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee are all states that get most of their energy from coal. But that’s slowly changing.