In this article we will take a look at the 15 biggest coal plants in the US. You can skip our detailed analysis of coal production, and some of the major growth catalysts for coal companies, and go directly to the 5 Biggest Coal Plants in the US.
Coal production in the US is expected to total 585 MMst (million short tons) in 2021, which is 9% higher than 2020’s production. Coal used to generate electric power is expected to increase 13% in 2021, with the production increase in 2021 being the largest in the Interior region because of increased domestic electricity generation.
However due to various reasons, the coal market in the United States is expected to decline with a compound annual growth rate of more than 3% between 2020-2025. Energy companies like Evergy, Inc. (NYSE: EVRG), FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), Xcel Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: XEL), Duke Energy Corporation (NYSE: DUK), Vistra Corp. (NYSE: VST), American Electric Power Company, Inc. (NASDAQ: AEP) and The Blackstone Group Inc. (NYSE: BX) are already feeling the effects of the declining demand of coal in the country. Despite this, existing thermal plants will likely consume a significant amount of coal. The market will be driven mainly by end-user industries like cement and steel (metallurgical). These industries are also expected to witness significant growth in the market.
Steel production is a major driving force behind the consumption of coal, as around 70% of global steel production is dependent on it. The US is the 4th largest producer of steel in the world. Steel production increased by 1.4 million metric tons between 2018 and 2019. COVID-19 has affected the coal industry as well, with coal mines in the US producing only 530 million tons in 2020 compared to the estimate of 705 million tons. The decline is due to factors like a decrease in demand for power generated by burning coal and decreased demand for coal in the steel industry overseas. There may be an increase in steel production post COVID-19 which could increase demand.
Energy investors are closely watching the global push against coal usage. There has been a push to move towards renewable energy especially hydro and wind, which are expected to slow the growth of the coal market. Energy companies like Evergy, Inc. (NYSE: EVRG), FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), Xcel Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: XEL), Duke Energy Corporation (NYSE: DUK), Vistra Corp. (NYSE: VST), American Electric Power Company, Inc. (NASDAQ: AEP) and The Blackstone Group Inc. (NYSE: BX) are embracing this change and investing millions of dollars to move to renewable energy sources. However, coal remains one of the biggest energy sources and the market isn’t going to lose steam anytime soon. Production is likely to increase post-mid-2021 with the export also rebounding.
With this context and industry outlook in mind, let’s start our list of the 15 biggest coal plants in the US.
Biggest Coal Plants in the US
15. Jeffrey Energy Center, Owned by Evergy, Inc. (NYSE: EVRG)
Jeffrey Energy Center is a modern coal-fired power plant located in Emmett Township, Pottawatomie County. Jeffrey EC is owned by Evergy, Inc. (NYSE: EVRG) through their subsidiaries Westar Energy and Aquila Corp. It has three 800 megawatt units which add up to a total operating capacity of 2.16 gigawatts. It is the smallest power plant on this list but the most modern.
Its primary mission is to convert the chemical energy available from its Wyoming Powder River Basin sub-bituminous coal supply into electric energy.
The plant ranks 15th in our list of biggest coal plants in the US.
14. H. Sammis Power Plant, Owned by FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE)
The W. H. Sammis Power Plant is a 2,220 Megawatt coal power plant in Stratton, Ohio which began operations in 1960. It is owned by Energy Harbor also known as FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE). Construction was completed on the first four units of Sammis between 1960 and 1962 at cost of $118 million.
Units 5 and 6 were completed and began operations in 1967 and 1969. They have an operating capacity of 625 MW. Unit 7 has a capacity of 650 MW and became functional in 1971. Low wholesale power prices in 2012 (which were made worse by the supply of natural gas) forced FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) to temporarily shut down Sammis.
The plant ranks 14th in our list of biggest coal plants in the US.
13. Sherburne County Generating Station (Sherco), Owned by Xcel Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: XEL)
Sherco is a power plant located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Becker, Sherburne County. It has three units which have a total capacity of 2,238 megawatts. Both units have a capacity of 680 MW and became operational in 1976 and 1977, respectively. It is the largest power plant in the state of Minnesota. The plant burns 20,000 to 30,000 tons of coal per day. The borders of the town of Becker extend around the plant, making the town’s residents heavily dependent on it.
The plant pays $4 million property tax bill annually which is 75% of the total taxes for the town with a population of about 4,600 people. The plant was constructed by Northern States Power Company (NSP), which is now a subsidiary of Xcel Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: XEL). Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency owns about 41 percent of the plant, but Xcel Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: XEL) is still the majority shareholder.
The plant ranks 13th in our list of biggest coal plants in the US.
12. Belews Creek Power Station, Owned by Duke Energy Corporation (NYSE: DUK)
Belews Creek Steam Station is a two-unit power plant with a total capacity of 2240-Megawatts. It is located on Belews Lake in Stokes County, North Carolina. Belews is Duke Energy Corporation (NYSE: DUK)’s largest coal fired power plant in the Carolina and is one of the most efficient coal burning facilities in the United States. Waste is dumped into Belews Lake, a man-made lake created for cooling water purposes. The plant’s two units became operational in 1974 and 1975.
Duke Energy Corporation (NYSE: DUK)’s plant uses many systems to control pollution: a selective catalytic reducer which removes nitrogen oxides and an electrostatic precipitator that removes fly ash. They also completed a desulfurization project which in 2008 to remove sulfur dioxide from emissions. This project has reduced the plant’s sulfur dioxide emissions by 95%.
11. Martin Lake Power Plant, Owned by Vistra Corp. (NYSE: VST)
Martin Lake Power Plant is a 2,250-Megawatt coal power plant located in Rusk County, Texas. The plant is owned by Luminant, a subsidiary of Vistra Corp. (NYSE: VST) and became operational in 1977. The plant has three units. Unit 1 was commissioned in 1977, Unit 2 in 1978, and Unit 3 in 1979. All three have a capacity of 750 MW. There is a man-made lake, also owned by Vistra Corp. (NYSE: VST)’s Luminant, which was created as the plant’s cooling source.
A selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system was installed in 2008 to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. Martin Lake receives coal from nearby lignite mines and from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. One of its units was temporarily closed in September 2013 due to low demand and higher cost of running the facility. It was restarted in March 2014.
The plant ranks 11th in our list of biggest coal plants in the US.
10. Cross Generating Station, Owned by Santee Cooper
Cross Generating Station has four units with a total capacity of 2,390 MW and is located in Pineville, South Carolina. It is owned the state of South Carolina through Santee Cooper, formally known as the South Carolina Public Service Authority. Unit one and four produce 591 MW each, unit 2 produces 556 MW, and unit 3 produces 652 MW.
In 2016, the plant began using refined coal instead of higher quality bituminous coal which releases less toxins when burned and is backed by the US government. The plant’s future has become more and more uncertain due to downward trends in use and there has been talk of shuttering the station or converting it to a natural gas plant. Despite this, no official statements have been made on the future of the plant.
The plant ranks 10th in our list of biggest coal plants in the US.
9. Cumberland Fossil Plant, Owned by Tennessee Valley Authority Debenture Series D (NYSE: TVC)
Cumberland Fossil Plant is a coal-fired power station located near Cumberland City, Tennessee. It is owned and run by Tennessee Valley Authority Debenture Series D (NYSE: TVC). It has a total capacity of 2,470 MW and is the biggest power station in Tennessee. It has two units which were commissioned in 1968, each rated at 1.235 gigawatts. They became fully operational in March and November 1973.
In 2004, the two units accounted for almost 12% of TVA’s total power generation. Keeping air pollution in mind, both units at Cumberland use wet limestone scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. To reduce nitrogen oxides, the units use burners and selective catalytic reduction systems.
The plant ranks 9th in our list of biggest coal plants in the US.
8. Rockport Generating, Owned by American Electric Power Company, Inc. (NASDAQ: AEP)
Rockport Generating Station is a coal-fired power plant, located in Spencer County, Indiana, in the United States. It is operated by Indiana Michigan Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power Company, Inc. (NASDAQ: AEP). The plant has two units of 1,300 MW each which became operational in December 1984 and December 1988. The plant is connected to the grid by 765 kilovolt transmission lines. In July 2019, American Electric Power Company, Inc. (NASDAQ: AEP) announced that Rockport’s Unit 1 will retire by the end of 2028.
This was decided in an agreement modification between American Electric Power Company, Inc. (NASDAQ: AEP) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agreement allowed AEP to reduce emissions according to goals set out by the EPA and shut down Unit 1 without adding costly pollution control systems. In 2021 AEP announced that Rockport’s Unit 2 will also be shut down by the end of 2028.
7. Gavin Power Plant, Owned by The Blackstone Group Inc. (NYSE: BX) & ArcLight Capital Partners
General James M. Gavin Power Plant is a 2,600 megawatts coal-fired power station in the village of Cheshire, Ohio. It is owned by the Lightstone Generation LLC, which itself is 50–50 joint venture of The Blackstone Group Inc. (NYSE: BX) and ArcLight Capital Partners. It is the largest power plant in Ohio that runs on coal and is capable of supporting two million homes. It has two units, each of 1,300 MW which were placed into service in 1974 and 1975. The Blackstone Group Inc. (NYSE: BX)’s power plant is connected to a transmission grid through 765-kilovolt transmission lines. It is located in Gallia County and is the county’s biggest taxpayer, contributing about $6 million in taxes annually. Besides this it also makes annual contributions of more than $50,000 to charity.
The plant ranks 7th in our list of biggest coal plants in the US.
6. Miller Steam Plant, Owned by Alabama Power Company (NYSE: ALP-PQ)
Miller Steam Plant located in West Jefferson, Alabama and is operated by Alabama Power Company (NYSE: ALP-PQ). It is an electrical plant that is powered by coal and has an operational capacity of 2,822 megawatts. Alabama Power Company (NYSE: ALP-PQ)’s plant has four units, which became operational in 1978, 1985, 1989 and 1991 respectively. Each unit has a capacity of 705 megawatts. The plant has two natural draft cooling towers. In 2017 The Weather Channel and the Environmental Protection Agency said the plant was the biggest producer of greenhouse gasses in the US.
The plant ranks 6th in our list of biggest coal plants in the US.
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Disclosure: None. 15 Biggest Coal Plants in the US is originally published on Insider Monkey.