Existing U.S. Coal Plants
|This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of coal plants|
To see a nationwide list of over 600 coal plants in the United States, click here. To see a listing of coal plants in a particular state, click on the map:
This page provides information on existing U.S. coal-fired power plants. For a list of proposed coal plants and coal plants that are under construction, click here.
- 1 Overview
- 2 U.S. coal-fired power production in the global context
- 3 U.S. coal production in a global context
- 4 Stagnant capacity, declining output
- 5 State-by-state output
- 6 Lower family incomes in coal states
- 7 Size comparison of coal plants
- 8 Age comparison of coal plants
- 9 Plant retirements and conversions
- 10 Ownership of existing U.S. coal-fired generating stations
- 11 Cost of electricity from existing coal plants
- 12 External costs of existing coal plants
- 13 Impact of climate change legislation on existing coal plants
- 14 Retrofitting existing coal plants for carbon capture
- 15 SO2 pollution and pollution controls
- 16 Oldest existing coal plants
- 17 2010 Report: New EPA regulations could make old coal plants prohibitively expensive
- 18 Data sources on existing coal plants
- 19 Resources
For the twelve months ending in March 2013, United States' coal plants produced 1,517,203 gigawatt hours of electricity, or 37.4 percent of total U.S. electricity production. At the peak year of coal's contribution to U.S. power production, 1988, coal produced 57.0% of U.S. power.  Coal's share in power production has fallen due to major increases in production from natural gas and smaller increases from nuclear and wind.
As of 2011, the Energy Information Administration listed 589 coal-fired power plants in the U.S., down from 633 coal-fired power plants in 2002. Of these 589 plants, 332 were owned by electric utilities, 98 by independent power producers, and the remainder by industrial and commercial producers of combined heat and power. In 2011, U.S. coal plants provided 317,640 MW of net summer capacity.
While the size of the coal fleet steadily shrank from 2001 to 2009, average capacity factor (the ratio of the actual output of a plant to the theoretical maximum output if the plant ran continuously) increased from 69.2 percent in 2001 to 73.6 percent in 2007, before falling to 63.8 percent in 2009.
For more information on coal plant capacity and generation, see Coal-fired power plant capacity and generation.
U.S. coal-fired power production in the global context
In 2012, the U.S. produced approximately 1,643,000 GWh (gigawatt hours) of electricity from coal (one GWh is the amount of power produced by a 1,000 MW power plant running for one hour), accounting for 17.9 percent of the world's coal-fired electricity:
|Country||2010 Coal Power Prod.||2012 Coal Power Prod.||% of World Total (2012)|
|China||3,273,000 GWh||3,785,000 GWh||41.3%|
|U.S.A.||1,994,000 GWh||1,643,000 GWh||17.9%|
|India||653,000 GWh||801,000 GWh||8.7%|
|Japan||304,000 GWh||303,000 GWh||3.3%|
|Germany||274,000 GWh||287,000 GWh||3.1%|
|South Africa||242,000 GWh||239,000 GWh||2.6%|
|Korea||219,000 GWh||239,000 GWh||2.6%|
|Australia||181,000 GWh||171,000 GWh||1.9%|
|Russia||166,000 GWh||169,000 GWh||1.8%|
|All Other Countries||1,392,000 GWh||1,531,000 GWh||16.7%|
|World Total||8,698,000 GWh||9,168,000 GWh||100%|
U.S. coal production in a global context
The following table represents the world's top coal producers in 2013 by metric tonne (MT). In 2013 the United States produced 904 metric tonnes of coal, a decrease of 10% from 2011. U.S. production represented 11.6% of the world total.
|Country||2011 Coal Prod.||2013 Coal Prod.||% of World Total (2013)|
|China||3,576 MT||3,561 MT||45.5%|
|U.S.A.||1,004 MT||904 MT||11.6%|
|India||586 MT||613 MT||7.8%|
|Indonesia||376 MT||489 MT||6.3%|
|Australia||414 MT||459 MT||5.9%|
|Russia||334 MT||347 MT||4.4%|
|South Africa||253 MT||256 MT||3.3%|
|Germany||189 MT||191 MT||2.4%|
|Poland||139 MT||143 MT||1.8%|
|Korea||117 MT||120 MT||1.5%|
|All Other Countries||795 MT||740 MT||9.5%|
|World Total||7,783 MT||7,823 MT||100%|
In 2011, U.S. coal-fired power plants produced 1,828 million tons of CO2-equivalents – 31.8% of U.S. CO2 emissions from energy-related activities, and 5.8% of total world CO2 fossil fuel emissions.
Stagnant capacity, declining output
From 1990 to 2009, the net capacity of the U.S. coal-fired power plant fleet remained virtually unchanged, increasing by only 7 Gigawatts (MW) or 2.5% during the entire 17-year period. The output of these plants increased from 1990 to 2007 before falling in 2009. This means that although the existing fleet was not growing in size, plants were being run more intensively. This is reflected in the average capacity factor of the fleet, which rose from 59% to 74% from 1990 to 2007, then fell to 64% in 2009. (Capacity factor refers to the ratio of the actual output of a plant to the theoretical maximum output if the plant ran continuously.)
|Year||Net Summer Capacity (Gigawatts)||Generation (thousand Gigawatt hours)||Capacity Factor|
|State||2005 Power Production (GWh)||2011 Power Production (GWh)||Change (%)|
|District of Columbia||-||-||0%|
Lower family incomes in coal states
The median family income of the top 15 coal-producing states was $44,922 in 2006 ($3,529 below the U.S. median); the median family income of the bottom 15 coal-producing states was $52,833 ($4,382 above the U.S. median).
Size comparison of coal plants
Here's a breakdown of existing U.S. coal-fired generating units by size:
|Unit Size||# of Units||Total Capacity|
|0-10 MW||37||192 MW|
|10-20 MW||25||345 MW|
|20-50 MW||75||2,427 MW|
|50-100 MW||73||5,269 MW|
|100-250 MW||85||14,000 MW|
|250-500 MW||97||34,396 MW|
|500-750 MW||69||42,655 MW|
|750-1,000 MW||28||23,612 MW|
|1,000-1,500 MW||59||72,366 MW|
|1,500-2,000 MW||38||66,657 MW|
|Over 2,000 MW||29||73,920 MW|
Thus, the 29 plants that are larger than 2,000 MW have a greater generating capacity than the 392 plants that are smaller than 500 MW.
Age comparison of coal plants
Here's a breakdown of existing U.S. coal-fired generating units (not overall plants) by age:
|Years Built||# of Units||Total Capacity (MW)|
The median existing U.S. coal-fired generating station was built in January 1966.
Plant retirements and conversions
The following sortable table (updated September 2015) lists recent and upcoming (including probable) coal plant retirements and conversions in the United States. In some cases, plants are being converted to use biomass or natural gas. To sort the table by a column, click on the column header. Clicking a second time on the header will reverse the order of the sort.
For plant-by-plant details, see Coal plant retirements.
Ownership of existing U.S. coal-fired generating stations
In 2005, there were 1,522 coal-fired generating units in the U.S., with 335,891 MW of capacity. The following companies (with their current subsidiaries) were the top producers of coal-fired electricity in the U.S. in 2005:
|Rank||Company/Entity||Number of Coal Plants (2005)||Total Coal Capacity (2005)||Total Coal Power Prod. (2005)||Total Coal SO2 Emissions (2005)||Coal SO2 Emissions Rate (lb/MWh)||2008 Revenue|
|1||American Electric Power||23||27,636 MW||167,422 GWh||1,043,582 tons||12.47||$13.33 billion|
|2||Southern Company||22||26,610 MW||163,360 GWh||1,090,967 tons||13.36||$17.00 billion|
|3||Duke Energy||20||18,585 MW||111,571 GWh||839,361 tons||15.05||$12.93 billion|
|4||Tennessee Valley Authority||12||17,647 MW||98,919 GWh||461,016 tons||9.32||$9.11 billion|
|5||Ameren||11||10,719 MW||67,477 GWh||302,285 tons||8.96||$7.67 billion|
|6||MidAmerican Energy||12||10,282 MW||67,028 GWh||172,946 tons||5.16||$12.38 billion|
|7||Edison International||11||10,253 MW||61,521 GWh||265,778 tons||8.64||$14.05 billion|
|8||Xcel Energy||15||8,961 MW||56,616 GWh||149,108 tons||5.27||$11.13 billion|
|9||NRG Energy||8||8,657 MW||53,586 GWh||180,696 tons||6.74||$6.89 billion|
|10||Dominion||16||9,031 MW||52,845 GWh||214,038 tons||8.10||$16.29 billion|
|11||FirstEnergy||9||8,495 MW||52,291 GWh||300,414 tons||11.49||$13.20 billion|
|12||E.ON||12||8,251 MW||47,307 GWh||236,000 tons||9.98||$116.95 billion|
|13||Progress Energy||9||7,925 MW||47,006 GWh||315,746 tons||13.43||$9.17 billion|
|14||Reliant Energy||11||8,134 MW||46,217 GWh||401,943 tons||17.39||$12.55 billion|
|15||Luminant||4||6,137 MW||45,911 GWh||273,126 tons||11.90||$8.50 billion|
|16||Allegheny Energy||10||7,636 MW||43,769 GWh||339,724 tons||15.52||$3.39 billion|
|17||DTE Energy||8||7,998 MW||41,782 GWh||199,337 tons||9.54||$9.33 billion|
|18||PPL||5||5,940 MW||38,512 GWh||260,936 tons||13.55||$8.04 billion|
|19||AES||14||5,371 MW||33,516 GWh||166,154 tons||9.91||$16.07 billion|
|20||Dynegy||6||3,755 MW||23,426 GWh||64,452 tons||5.50||$3.55 billion|
|21||Entergy||3||4,015 MW||23,038 GWh||70,502 tons||6.12||$13.09 billion|
|22||Alliant Energy||11||4,055 MW||21,456 GWh||97,114 tons||9.05||$3.68 billion|
|23||Great Plains Energy||4||3,462 MW||20,997 GWh||64,686 tons||6.16||$1.67 billion|
|24||CMS Energy||6||3,090 MW||20,367 GWh||91,317 tons||8.97||$6.82 billion|
|25||Westar Energy||3||2,958 MW||19,882 GWh||78,548 tons||7.90||$1.84 billion|
These 25 largest operators of coal plants (all privately-owned corporations, with the exception of the TVA, which is a publicly-owned corporation) own 264 out of the 614 coal-fired power plants in the U.S.; these 264 plants produced a total of 1,425,653 GWh of electricity in 2005 (70.8% of total U.S. coal-fired power production). The coal plants owned by these 25 entities also produced 7,679,776 tons of SO2 in 2005, equivalent to 52.2% of all U.S. SO2 emissions from all sources.
Additionally, these 25 entities had combined total revenues of $348.63 billion in 2007 (which is equivalent to 2.4% of the total U.S. GDP). The U.S. coal industry is a big, big business, and its main players – who control the vast majority of U.S. coal power production – are among the biggest corporations in the country. (Dominion, Southern, AES, Duke, Edison, FirstEnergy, Entergy, Reliant, Progress, Xcel, DTE, Ameren, PPL, CMS, and NRG are all among the Fortune 500; MidAmerican is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the 13th biggest corporation in the U.S., and E.ON - based in Germany - is the biggest electric utility in the world.)
Cost of electricity from existing coal plants
As of July, 2008, the average cost of coal supplied to existing coal plants in the United States was $2.09 per million BTU. At 34.3% efficiency for a typical coal plant, that translates to 2.08 cents per kilowatt hour for coal. Operation and maintenance is approximately 0.75 cents per kilowatt hour. So total fuel and operating costs for a typical coal plant is 2.83 cents per kilowatt hour. Since the median age of existing coal plants is 44 years, most are already fully amortized. That means their owners have fully paid off the construction costs, and operating and fuel costs are the only components of cost.
For more on the financial risks of coal energy investment, see Financial Risks of Coal Energy Investment.
External costs of existing coal plants
- Reduction in life expectancy (particulates, sulfur dioxide, ozone, heavy metal, benzene, radionuclides, etc.)
- Respiratory hospital admissions (particulates, ozone, sulfur dioxide)
- Congrestive heart failure (particulates and carbon monoxide)
- Non-fatal cancer, osteroporosia, ataxia, renal dysfunction (benzene, radionuclines, heavy metal, etc.)
- Chronic bronchitis, asthma attacks, etc. (particulates, ozone)
- Loss of IQ (mercury)
- Degradation and soiling of buildings (sulfur dioxide, acid deposition, particulates)
- Reduction of crop yields (NOx, sulfur dioxide, ozone, acid deposition); some emissions may also have a fertilizing effect (nitrogen and sulfur deposition)
- Global warming (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide)
- Ecosystem loss and degradation
Among the impacts of coal plants are the fine particulates released directly or produced indirectly by sulfur dioxide emissions. According to a 2004 study released by the Clean Air Task Force, fine particulates from power plants result in nearly 24,000 annual deaths, with 14 years lost on average for each death. Based on social decisions in other contexts such as transportation and medicine, researchers report (see below) that American society is willing to spend $129,090 to avoid the loss of a year of life. This suggests that society would be willing to spend at an additional $40 billion (i.e., 24,000 annual deaths x 14 years lost x $129,000 per year lost) for alternative ways of generating electricity that did not produce deadly pollution. With US coal plants generating about 2 billion Gigawatt hours annually, the expenditure of an additional $40 billion would raise the cost of electricity by about two cents per kilowatt hour.
For more on the external costs of coal, see External costs of coal.
Impact of climate change legislation on existing coal plants
The proposed Waxman-Markey Climate Bill, which stalled during the legislative session of 2009, would have impacted existing coal plants. Although the version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) that passed the House required a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions from new coal plants by 2025, it mandated no specific reduction requirements for existing plants. Environmental groups and public health advocates wee concerned that, by driving up the cost of new plants and offering free emissions allowances or carbon offsets for older facilities, the bill may have actually resulted in even heavier reliance on an aging fleet of coal plants. Some groups expressed concern that the climate change legislation would end up having similar issues to the 1977 Clean Air Act, which grandfathered in older plants and largely exempted them from requirements that facilities use the best available pollution-control technologies. Environmental advocates pushed the Senate to add regulations to ACES that would lead to the closure of older, highly polluting plants.
Retrofitting existing coal plants for carbon capture
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it is not economical to retrofit existing coal plants with carbon capture technology:
- Existing CO2 capture technologies are not cost-effective when considered in the context of large power plants. Economic studies indicate that carbon capture will add over 30 percent to the cost of electricity for new integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) units and over 80 percent to the cost of electricity if retrofitted to existing pulverized coal (PC) units. A recent study from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) confirms that additional alternatives need to be pursued to bring the cost of carbon capture down. In addition, the net electricity produced from existing plants would be significantly reduced - often referred to as parasitic loss - since 20 to 30 percent of the power generated by the plant would have to be used to capture and compress the CO2.
SO2 pollution and pollution controls
In 1970, the U.S. Congress passed the Clean Air Act, which regulated the emission of sulfur dioxide (SO2), among other forms of pollution. SO2 contributes strongly to acid rain, and causes or exacerbates respiratory illnesses. However, the legislation allowed for exemptions for older power plants. This legislation has been strengthened since then: in 1977, the New Source Review increased compliance by states, while the EPA's Clean Air Interstate Rule, passed in 2005, requires a 57% cut in U.S. SO2 emissions by 2015. (Roughly 60% of U.S. SO2 emissions come from coal-fired power plants.) Especially since 2005, many utilities have begun attaching SO2 scrubbers to their coal-fired generating stations. However, many plants still do not have adequate - or even any - SO2 controls.
According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the following proportions of coal-fired power plants with capacity over 100 MW had SO2 scrubbers in 2005:
|SO2 Removal Rate||# of Plants||Total Capacity|
|Over 90%||94||46,734 MW|
It is possible that some coal-fired plants with SO2 scrubbers did not report their scrubbers to the EIA, and thus that the above table overstates the number of plants without SO2 controls. However, out of 257 U.S. coal-fired power plants which produced more than 2,000 GWh of power in 2006, 86 had SO2 emissions that were higher than 10 lb/MWh – compared with an average of 1 lb/MWh for coal plants with state-of-the-art SO2 scrubbers. We can surmise that these 86 plants almost certainly have zero or extremely minimal SO2 scrubbers, or have SO2 scrubbers that were not functioning in 2006.
A more recent survey (June 2008) of coal-fired power plants conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency found that 209,000 MW out of 329,000 MW of capacity, or 63.5%, had no scrubbers. Of the 120,000 MW fitted with scrubbers, 104,000 MW represented wet fluidized gas disposal systems and 16,200 MW represented dry fluidized gas disposal systems.
The following table summarizes the findings of the EPA survey (June 2008):
|Scrubber Status (2008)||Plants Without Scrubbers||Plants With Scrubbers||Total|
|Number of Plants||351||146||497|
|Number of Generating Units||990||290||1,280|
In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency released projections about future scrubber systems at coal-fired power plants. The following table shows the EPA's projections for scrubbers in 2009 and 2010. The reason that the total capacity represented by these figures is lower than the figures shown above (316,000 MW in 2009 and 318,000 MW in 2010, compared to the 329,000 MW shown above for of capacity survey in 2008), is that these figures are based on a database that uses summer and winter capacity rather than nameplate capacity. 
|Scrubber Status||Capacity Without Scrubbers (MW)||Capacity With Scrubbers (MW)||Total Capacity (MW)|
The following table summarizes the data from EPA's 2008 survey and 2009/2010 projections:
|Year||Percent of Coal Capacity with Scrubbers|
|Rank||Plant Name||State||Year(s) Built||Parent Company||Capacity||Total SO2 Emissions||SO2 Rate|
|1||R. Gallagher||IN||1958-61||Duke Energy||600 MW||50,819 tons||40.38 lb/MWh|
|2||Muskingum River||OH||1953-58, 1968||American Electric Power||1529 MW||122,984 tons||32.78 lb/MWh|
|3||Warrick||IN||1960-70||Alcoa||755 MW||92,919 tons||32.69 lb/MWh|
|4||Hatfield's Ferry Power Station||PA||1969-71||Allegheny Energy||1728 MW||135,082 tons||28.91 lb/MWh|
|5||Portland||PA||1958-62||Reliant Energy||427 MW||30,685 tons||28.30 lb/MWh|
|6||Wabash River||IN||1953-56, 1968, 1995||Duke Energy||1165 MW||58,793 tons||27.66 lb/MWh|
|7||Shawville||PA||1954-60||Reliant Energy||626 MW||47,287 tons||26.96 lb/MWh|
|8||Cayuga||IN||1970-72||Duke Energy||1062 MW||86,174 tons||26.68 lb/MWh|
|9||Morgantown||MD||1970-71||Mirant||1252 MW||98,073 tons||26.08 lb/MWh|
|10||Keystone||PA||1967-68||Reliant Energy||1872 MW||164,354 tons||25.83 lb/MWh|
|11||Avon Lake||OH||1949, 1970||Reliant Energy||766 MW||43,479 tons||24.50 lb/MWh|
|12||Harding Street||IN||1958-61, 1973||AES||698 MW||46,346 tons||24.00 lb/MWh|
|13||Jefferies||SC||1970||Santee Cooper||346 MW||26,299 tons||23.92 lb/MWh|
|14||E.W. Brown||KY||1957-63, 1971||E.ON||739 MW||45,191 tons||23.75 lb/MWh|
|15||Montour||PA||1972-73||PPL||1624 MW||129,357 tons||23.70 lb/MWh|
|16||Kammer||WV||1958-59||American Electric Power||713 MW||119,369 tons||23.58 lb/MWh|
|17||Cheswick||PA||1970||Reliant Energy||637 MW||32,373 tons||23.01 lb/MWh|
|18||E.C. Gaston||AL||1960-62, 1974||Southern Company||2013 MW||130,494 tons||22.91 lb/MWh|
|19||Dickerson||MD||1959-62||Mirant||588 MW||35,954 tons||22.82 lb/MWh|
|20||Johnsonville Fossil Plant||TN||1951-59||Tennessee Valley Authority||1485 MW||86,793 tons||22.67 lb/MWh|
|21||Fort Martin Power Station||WV||1967-68||Allegheny Energy||1152 MW||87,565 tons||21.79 lb/MWh|
|22||Yates||GA||1950-58, 1974||Southern Company||1487 MW||75,476 tons||21.63 lb/MWh|
|23||Big Brown||TX||1971-72||Luminant||1187 MW||96,221 tons||21.59 lb/MWh|
|24||Chalk Point||MD||1964-65||Mirant||728 MW||49,591 tons||21.14 lb/MWh|
|25||Merrimack||NH||1960-68||Northeast Utilities||459 MW||32,726 tons||20.70 lb/MWh|
|26||Leland Olds||ND||1966, 1975||Basin Electric Power Cooperative||656 MW||40,027 tons||20.50 lb/MWh|
|27||Brunner Island||PA||1961-69||PPL||1559 MW||93,545 tons||20.49 lb/MWh|
|28||Walter C. Beckjord||OH||1952-62, 1969||Duke Energy||1221 MW||62,480 tons||20.32 lb/MWh|
|29||Hammond||GA||1954-55, 1970||Southern Company||953 MW||40,579 tons||20.25 lb/MWh|
|30||Conesville||OH||1962, 1973-78||American Electric Power||1891 MW||90,540 tons||20.00 lb/MWh|
|31||Yorktown||VA||1957-59||Dominion||375 MW||21,685 tons||19.86 lb/MWh|
|32||Gorgas||AL||1951-58, 1972||Southern Company||1417 MW||81,268 tons||19.53 lb/MWh|
|33||Greene County||AL||1965-66||Southern Company||568 MW||37,863 tons||18.99 lb/MWh|
|34||Eastlake||OH||1953-56, 1972||FirstEnergy||1257 MW||82,705 tons||18.87 lb/MWh|
|35||Harllee Branch||GA||1965-69||Southern Company||1746 MW||95,990 tons||18.73 lb/MWh|
|36||Miami Fort||OH||1949, 1960, 1975-78||Duke Energy||1378 MW||62,028 tons||18.63 lb/MWh|
|37||Canadys Steam||SC||1962-67||SCANA||490 MW||22,984 tons||18.58 lb/MWh|
|38||Kyger Creek||OH||1955||American Electric Power and FirstEnergy||1086 MW||67,157 tons||18.30 lb/MWh|
|39||Bowen||GA||1971-75||Southern Company||3499 MW||206,442 tons||18.24 lb/MWh|
|40||Homer City||PA||1969, 1977||Exelon||2012 MW||106,772 tons||17.42 lb/MWh|
|41||Philip Sporn||WV||1950-52, 1960||American Electric Power||1106 MW||39,741 tons||15.69 lb/MWh|
|42||Chesterfield||VA||1952-1969||Dominion||1353 MW||64,863 tons||15.55 lb/MWh|
|43||Wateree||SC||1970-71||SCANA||772 MW||32,797 tons||15.30 lb/MWh|
|44||Jack McDonough||GA||1963-64||Southern Company||598 MW||28,835 tons||15.29 lb/MWh|
|45||E.D. Edwards||IL||1960, 1968-72||Ameren||780 MW||50,126 tons||15.28 lb/MWh|
|46||Wansley||GA||1976-78||Southern Company||1904 MW||96,200 tons||15.25 lb/MWh|
|47||Herbert A. Wagner||MD||1959, 1966||Constellation Energy||495 MW||19,646 tons||15.13 lb/MWh|
|48||Cardinal||OH||1967, 1977||American Electric Power||1880 MW||86,880 tons||15.12 lb/MWh|
|49||Clifty Creek||IN||1955-56||American Electric Power and FirstEnergy||1303 MW||65,372 tons||14.32 lb/MWh|
|50||Cliffside||NC||1940-48, 1972||Duke Energy||781 MW||28,878 tons||14.30 lb/MWh|
|51||G.G. Allen||NC||1957-61||Duke Energy||1155 MW||45,395 tons||14.13 lb/MWh|
|52||J.M. Stuart||OH||1970-74||DPL||2441 MW||103,649 tons||14.11 lb/MWh|
|53||L.V. Sutton||NC||1954-55, 1972||Progress Energy||672 MW||19,159 tons||13.85 lb/MWh|
|54||Gibson||IN||1975-82||Duke Energy||3340 MW||155,057 tons||13.80 lb/MWh|
|55||Sioux||MO||1967-68||Ameren||1100 MW||44,148 tons||13.80 lb/MWh|
|56||Mitchell||WV||1971||American Electric Power||1633 MW||53,152 tons||13.67 lb/MWh|
|57||Trenton Channel||MI||1949-50, 1968||DTE Energy||776 MW||29,066 tons||13.52 lb/MWh|
|58||Clinch River||VA||1958-61||American Electric Power||713 MW||27,134 tons||13.17 lb/MWh|
|59||Marshall||NC||1965-70||Duke Energy||1996 MW||85,050 tons||13.17 lb/MWh|
|60||Hudson||NJ||1968||Public Service Enterprise Group||660 MW||19,709 tons||13.04 lb/MWh|
|61||Big Sandy||KY||1963-69||American Electric Power||1097 MW||46,476 tons||12.96 lb/MWh|
|62||Roxboro||NC||1966-73, 1980||Progress Energy||2558 MW||92,259 tons||12.55 lb/MWh|
|63||Williams||SC||1973||SCANA||633 MW||28,147 tons||12.53 lb/MWh|
|64||Belews Creek||NC||1974-75||Duke Energy||2160 MW||95,290 tons||12.30 lb/MWh|
|65||Sandow 4||TX||1981||Luminant||591 MW||23,747 tons||12.25 lb/MWh|
|66||Indian River||DE||1957-59, 1970, 1980||NRG Energy||782 MW||20,705 tons||12.24 lb/MWh|
|67||Tanners Creek||IN||1951-54, 1964||American Electric Power||1100 MW||35,494 tons||12.08 lb/MWh|
|68||John Sevier Fossil Plant||TN||1955-57||Tennessee Valley Authority||800 MW||30,126 tons||11.95 lb/MWh|
|69||Jack Watson||MS||1968, 1973||Southern Company||750 MW||29,113 tons||11.94 lb/MWh|
|70||Bull Run Fossil Plant||TN||1967||Tennessee Valley Authority||950 MW||27,987 tons||11.92 lb/MWh|
|71||John E. Amos||WV||1971-73||American Electric Power||2933 MW||117,299 tons||11.68 lb/MWh|
|72||Paradise Fossil Plant||KY||1963, 1970||Tennessee Valley Authority||2558 MW||83,926 tons||11.55 lb/MWh|
|73||Monroe||MI||1970-74||DTE Energy||3280 MW||103,570 tons||11.52 lb/MWh|
|74||St. Clair||MI||1953-54, 1961, 1969||DTE Energy||1547 MW||42,374 tons||11.39 lb/MWh|
|75||Crist||FL||1959-61, 1970-73||Southern Company||1135 MW||35,614 tons||11.34 lb/MWh|
|76||Genoa||WI||1969||Dairyland Power Cooperative||346 MW||11,420 tons||11.26 lb/MWh|
|77||Michigan City||IN||1974||NiSource||540 MW||15,993 tons||11.21 lb/MWh|
|78||Mayo||NC||1983||Progress Energy||736 MW||24,499 tons||11.20 lb/MWh|
|79||W.H. Sammis||OH||1959-62, 1967-71||FirstEnergy||2456 MW||86,392 tons||11.08 lb/MWh|
|80||Milton R. Young||ND||1970, 1977||Minnkota Power Cooperative||734 MW||26,879 tons||11.06 lb/MWh|
|81||Killen||OH||1982||DPL||666 MW||22,825 tons||10.97 lb/MWh|
|82||Kingston Fossil Plant||TN||1954-55||Tennessee Valley Authority||1700 MW||55,473 tons||10.69 lb/MWh|
|83||Winyah||SC||1975-81||Santee Cooper||1260 MW||42,709 tons||10.68 lb/MWh|
|84||Colbert Fossil Plant||AL||1955, 1965||Tennessee Valley Authority||1350 MW||39,942 tons||10.41 lb/MWh|
|85||Monticello||TX||1974-78||Luminant||1980 MW||77,538 tons||10.37 lb/MWh|
|86||H.L. Spurlock||KY||1977-81, 2005||East Kentucky Power Cooperative||1279 MW||38,877 tons||10.22 lb/MWh|
While the 86 plants shown in the table above have a capacity of 107.1 GW, or 9.9% of total U.S. electric capacity, they emitted 5,389,592 tons of SO2 in 2006; this represents 28.6% of U.S. SO2 emissions from all sources.
These dirtiest big coal-fired power plants – many of which are among the oldest in the country (the median age of the 86 plants is 45 years) – are mostly owned by the biggest U.S. coal energy companies. Here is a list of the owners of these 86 dirtiest big coal-fired power plants, ranked by total capacity of the dirtiest coal plants that they own, and including a ranking of the company's position in the coal energy industry:
|Rank||Company/Entity||Rank in U.S. Coal Energy Production||# of Dirtiest Big Coal Plants||Total Capacity of Dirtiest Big Coal Plants|
|1||Southern Company||2||11||16,071 MW|
|2||American Electric Power||1||11||15,766 MW|
|3||Duke Energy||3||10||14,858 MW|
|4||Tennessee Valley Authority||4||6||8,843 MW|
|5||DTE Energy||14||3||5,602 MW|
|6||Reliant Energy||13||5||4,328 MW|
|8||Progress Energy||15||3||3,966 MW|
|12||Allegheny Energy||16||2||2,880 MW|
|18||Santee Cooper||33||2||1,606 MW|
|19||East Kentucky Power Co-op||N/A||1||1,279 MW|
|21||NRG Energy||9||1||782 MW|
|24||Minnkota Power Cooperative||N/A||1||734 MW|
|25||Public Service Enterprise Group||N/A||1||660 MW|
|26||Basin Electric Power Co-op||29||1||656 MW|
|28||Constellation Energy||36||1||495 MW|
|29||Northeast Utilities||N/A||1||459 MW|
|30||Dairyland Power Cooperative||N/A||1||346 MW|
Thus, even though SO2 scrubbers have become significantly less expensive in recent years, many of the biggest coal energy companies in the country – many of which have billions of dollars of annual revenues – have failed to install SO2 scrubbers on many of their oldest and dirtiest coal plants.
Oldest existing coal plants
|Rank||State||Plant Name||Date Plant Began Operation||2007 Power Prod.||Notes|
|1||IN||Perry K Steam Plant||Aug, 1938||72 GWh||Converted to natural gas in 2014|
|2||WI||Blount Street Station||Dec, 1938||2,031 GWh||Converted to natural gas in 2011|
|3||IA||Sixth Street Generating Station||Apr, 1940||321 GWh||Retired 2010|
|4||NC||Cliffside Plant (existing)||Jul, 1940||4,336 GWh||Retiring Units 1-4 in 2012|
|5||IA||Dubuque Generating Station||Jun, 1941||338 GWh||Retired Unit 1 in 2010|
|6||NC||Buck Steam Station||Jul, 1941||1,847 GWh||Retiring Units 3,4 in 2011|
|7||MN||High Bridge Generating Plant||Jan, 1942||939 GWh||Converted to natural gas in 2008 and 2009|
|8||IN||Harding Street Station||Apr, 1942||4,115 GWh||Converting to natural gas in 2016|
|9||WI||Pulliam Power Plant||Jan, 1943||2,519 GWh|
|10||NY||AES Westover Generation Plant||Oct, 1943||496 GWh||Retired in 2011|
|11||OH||Burger Plant||Jan, 1944||1,297 GWh||Retired Units 4,5 in 2010|
|12||WV||Rivesville Power Station||Jan, 1944||271 GWh||Retired in 2012|
|13||VA||Glen Lyn Plant||Jun, 1944||1,612 GWh||Retiring Units 5,6 in 2014|
|14||IN||Edwardsport Plant||Jul, 1944||254 GWh||Retiring Units 7,8 in 2011|
|15||NY||Huntley Generating Station||Jan, 1945||2,756 GWh|
|16||VA||Potomac River Generating Station||Oct, 1946||1,601 GWh||Retiring in 2012|
|17||MD||R. Paul Smith Power Station||Jan, 1947||698 GWh||Retired in 2012|
|18||IL||Havana Power Station||Jul, 1947||3,460 GWh|
|19||KY||Tyrone Generating Station||Oct, 1947||429 GWh||Retiring in 2016|
|20||IA||Lansing Power Station||Jan, 1948||1,724 GWh||Retired Units 2,3 in 2010|
|21||PA||Mitchell Plant||Jan, 1948||952 GWh||Retiring Unit 1 - year unknown|
|22||IL||Meredosia Power Station||Jun, 1948||1,952 GWh||Retired in 2011|
|23||OH||Hutchings Station||Jul, 1948||691 GWh||Retired in 2013 and 2015|
|24||MI||Cobb Generating Plant||Sep, 1948||2,339 GWh||Retired in 2014|
|25||NY||Russell Station||Dec, 1948||1,315 GWh|
|26||KS||Riverton Power Plant||Jan, 1949||672 GWh|
|27||MN||Riverside Generating Plant (Minnesota)||Jan, 1949||2,344 GWh|
|28||IN||Eagle Valley Station||Feb, 1949||1,577 GWh||Converting to gas in 2017|
|29||AL||Gadsden Steam Plant||Apr, 1949||539 GWh|
|30||MI||Trenton Channel Power Plant||May, 1949||3,388 GWh|
|31||WI||Stoneman Generating Station||May, 1949||66 GWh||Converted to wood waste in 2010|
|32||PA||Sunbury Steam Station||Aug, 1949||1,910 GWh||Retired in 2015|
|33||NC||Weatherspoon Plant||Sep, 1949||1,018 GWh||Retiring in 2017|
|34||IL||Wood River Station||Nov, 1949||3,041 GWh|
|35||OH||Avon Lake Power Plant||Dec, 1949||3,078 GWh||Retired in 2015|
|36||OH||Miami Fort Station||Dec, 1949||7,399 GWh||Retired in 2015|
|37||NY||Dunkirk Steam Station||Jan, 1950||3,646 GWh|
2010 Report: New EPA regulations could make old coal plants prohibitively expensive
According to the 2010 report "Impact of EPA Rules on Power Markets," by Credit Suisse, tougher federal air pollution rules that will be coming in the next few years could prompt electricity companies to close as many as 1 in every 5 coal-burning power plants in America, primarily facilities more than 40 years old that lack emissions controls.
The regulations being crafted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), expected to go into force in April and November 2011 in accordance with the Clean Air Act, are aimed at reducing mercury, acid rain, and smog-forming emissions from utility smokestacks. The study found that the EPA rules, combined with a recent drop in the price of natural gas, could over the next four to five years cause the utility industry to accelerate retirement of old coal-fired power plants rather than spend to upgrade the plants' emissions controls.
After expected emissions upgrades, the coal fleet will continue to have plants, producing about 103,000 megawatts, that are still "lacking any major emission controls," the study says. The oldest, smallest coal plants with few emissions controls make up an "at-risk" of closure portion that account for about 20 percent of total US coal-fired generating capacity, or 69,000 megawatts. The cost to cut sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and mercury emissions could run $50 billion to $70 billion, not counting the oldest plants. Upgrading those would cost another $80 billion to $110 billion.
Data sources on existing coal plants
- Electric Power Annual - U.S. Energy Information Administration: The EIA's annual reports on the electric power sector provide 12 years of summary statistics on capacity, generation, fuel consumption, fuel cost, loads, electricity prices, plant capacity factors, heat rates, sales, revenues, and other characteristics of the U.S. coal fleet.
- All Reports & Publications - U.S. Energy Information Administration: This EIA page allows users to search for reports on energy by fuel type and by topic.
- Electricity Data Files - U.S. Energy Information Administration: This page provides links to statistics for individual generating units.
- "Table 1.1: Net Generation by Energy Source: Total (All Sectors)," U.S. Energy Information Administration, May 21, 2013
- Net Generation by Energy Source: Total (All Sectors), 1995 through January 2009, Energy Information Administration, Apr. 22, 2009.
- Electricity Net Generation: Electric Power Sector, 1949-2007, Energy Information Administration, accessed May 2009.
- "Count of Electric Power Industry Power Plants, by Sector, by Predominant Energy Sources within Plant, 2002 through 2011" U.S. Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2013
- "Existing Net Summer Capacity by Energy Source and Producer Type, 2001 through 2011 (Megawatts)," U.S. Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2013.
- "Table 5.2: Average Capacity Factors by Energy Source," U.S. Energy Information Administration, November 23, 2010.
- “Key World Energy Statistics 2014”, International Energy Agency, 2014, p. 25.
- "2014 Key World Energy Statistics" EIA, 2014.
- "US GHG Inventory 2013," Chapter 3, Energy, accessed June 2013
- "Table 8.2a, Electricity Net Generation: Total (All Sectors), Selected Years, 1949-2009," U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review, 2009
- "Table 8.11a, Electric Net Summer Capacity: Total (All Sectors), Selected Years, 1949-2009," U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review 2009
- "Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005"
- "Table 3.7. Net Generation from Coal by State, by Sector, 2011 and 2010," Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2013
- Energy Information Agency, "Existing Electrical Generating Units in the United States, 2008 (By Energy Source)", Preliminary Data; Figures for 2009 from National Energy Technology Laboratory, "Tracking New Coal-Fired Power Plants," January 8, 2010
- Company Insight Center, BusinessWeek website, accessed April 2008.
- National Emissions Trends, Energy Information Administration, accessed May 2009.
- Industries: Utilities: Gas & Electric, Fortune 500 website, accessed May 2009.
- "Average Cost of Coal Delivered for Electricity Generation by State," U.S. Energy Information Administration, October 28, 2008
- The conversion factor is 3413 BTUs per kilowatt hour
- "The Future of Coal," MIT, Table 3.1, p. 19, 2007
- "Damages assessed," ExternE website, accessed March 2009
- Conrad G. Schneider, Abt Associates, "Dirty Air, Dirty Power: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants," Clean Air Task Force, June 2004 (Synopsis)
- "Cost-effective Medical Treatment: Putting an Updated Dollar Value on Human Life," Knowledge@Wharton, April 30, 2008
- Coal-fired power plant capacity and generation
- Kari Lydersen, "'The Clunkers of the Power-Plant World': Old Coal-Fired Facilities Could Escape New Rules," Washington Post, August 17, 2009.
- "Retrofitting the Existing Coal Fleet with Carbon Capture Technology," U.S. Department of Energy, accessed December 2008
- A Timeline of the Clean Air Act, Environmental Defense Fund, accessed April 2008.
- "Utilities amassing landfills: Tougher air standards send tons of plants' sludge, coal ash into ground", Columbus Dispatch, April 14, 2008.
- Coal Combustion Residues and Mercury Control, EPA Interim Report on the Control of Mercury Admissions from Coal-Fired Electric Boilers, April 2002.
- Form EIA-767 Database, Energy Information Administration website, 2005.
- Dirty Kilowatts 2007 Report Database, Environmental Integrity Project, accessed May 2008.
- Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007, p. 8.
- "Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category: 2007/2008 Detailed Study Report," U.S Environmental Protection Agency, August 2008, Table 3-1, page 3-9
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Technology Transfer Network: State Emission Index", accessed May 2008.
- "America's Biggest Polluters: Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Plants in 2007" Environment America, November 24, 2009
- Ken Stewart, "Is coal power headed for a downsizing in US?" CS Monitor, October 20, 2010.
Related SourceWatch Resources
- Campus coal plants
- Climate impacts of coal plants
- Coal and jobs in the United States
- Coal and transmission
- Coal-fired power plant capacity and generation
- Coal moratorium
- Coal phase-out
- Coal plant conversion projects
- Coal plant retirements
- Coal plants near residential areas
- Coal waste
- Comparative electrical generation costs
- Dispelling the myths of the acid rain story
- Divestment and shareholder action on coal
- Environmental impacts of coal
- Former coal plants
- Global warming
- Google Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal initiative
- Gore zero-carbon proposal
- Mercury and coal
- Oldest existing coal plants
- Opposition to existing coal plants
- Retrofit vs. Phase-Out of Coal-Fired Power Plants
- Scrubber Retrofits at Existing Coal Plants
- Sulfur dioxide and coal
- United States and coal
- U.S. Coal Capacity by Year
- Courtney Abrams, "America's Biggest Polluters: Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Plants in 2007," Environment America Research & Policy Center, November 2009.
- Ted Nace, "Meet the Boomers: What's the best way to phase out the huge fleet of aging coal plants?", Grist, November 11, 2008.
- Ted Nace, "Death of a Thousand Cuts: A Messy But Practical Strategy for Phasing out the U.S. Coal Fleet," Grist, March 20, 2010.
- "Innovations for Existing Power Plants," Department of Energy
- "Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the U.S. - 2006," Natural Resources Defense Council
- "Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category: 2007/2008 Detailed Study Report," U.S Environmental Protection Agency, August 2008
- "Impact of EPA Rules on Power Markets," Credit Suisse, September 23, 2010
- Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool, prepared by Abt Associates for the Clean Air Task Force, July 2010 (state-by-state mortality and morbidity figures - Table 37, page 97)
- Metin Celebi, "Potential Coal Plant Retirements Under Emerging Environmental Regulations" The Brattle Group, December 8, 2010
- "Ensuring a Clean, Modern Electric Generating Fleet while Maintaining Electric System Reliability," M.J. Bradley & Associates LLC, August 2010
- "Coal‐Fired Electric Generation Unit Retirement Analysis," ICF International for The INGAA Foundation & INGAA, May 18, 2010
- "Growth from Subtraction," Credit Suisse, September 23, 2010
- "Why coal plants retire: power market fundamentals as of 2012," Susan F. Tierney, Analysis, Group, February 16, 2012
- Global Coal Plant Tracker, CoalSwarm