Community leaders from all corners of Memphis gathered on a cold January day recently to get a first-hand look at the old Allen Fossil Plant site and its surrounding coal yards, now empty and quiet. Now that the TVA plant has been decommissioned, the site is being cleaned up and eyed for new economic development. Members of the Memphis Chamber’s Board of Governors, Board of Advisors and Chairman’s Circle were invited to come see it for themselves.
To answer questions about the site and about what TVA is doing to remove coal ash stored there, TVA invited the community leaders to an in-house presentation and personal tour, given by the people at TVA who know the subject best: Bob Deacy, senior vice president, Generation Projects & Fleet Services; Cedric Adams, principal project manager; Angela Austin, construction manager; and Danny Stephens, senior program manager, Strategy and Engineering.
Deacy kicked off the event with a lunchtime presentation about the history of the fossil plant, environmental improvements surrounding it, and the creation of the new gas-fired Allen Combined Cycle Plant—its capacity, function, and future. Deacy explained the combined-cycle process, showing why the plant is much cleaner than its predecessor and why it is extremely cost-effective. He took questions from group members, who wanted to know more about the process for removing coal ash, how coal ash can sometimes be repurposed into other products, and future plans for the site.
“I assured them that no matter what happens with the power supply partnership between MLGW and TVA, we’ve made the commitment to clean up this site, and we’re going to do it,” said Deacy. “The new combined-cycle plant will continue to operate and its power will still be used by the TVA system.”
To questions about saving money by staying with TVA, Deacy explained to the group, “TVA is not a private utility. We have no investors demanding dividend payouts. Our shareholders are ratepayers, like you. We believe in the public power model which enables us to be a low-cost provider. And our revenues are reinvested into TVA assets and the communities we serve – like Memphis.”
After the presentation, the group took a personal bus tour of the site, led by Austin and Stephens. They pointed out former coal yard equipment dating back to the 1960s and explained how coal would come in by barge from the Mississippi River to McKellar Lake and be offloaded directly to the fossil plant. The 500-acre site is drawing interest now from Memphis leaders who are looking at repurposing it into a port facility, although no decisions have been made.
Attendees commented afterward that they appreciated the tour and had gotten their questions answered.
“It’s extra helpful for you to do this,” said attendee Lee Still of Suntrust Bank. “It’s good to let people see and learn for themselves.”