NRG plans to close Indian River coal-fired power plant next year

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Delaware’s last coal-fired power plant is slated to shut down next year.

PowerMag reported that owner NRG would close three power plants, two in Illinois and the Indian River coal-fired unit near Millsboro, in mid-2022.

The reason for the plant’s retirement was low power prices coming out of a recent auction from grid-manager PJM.

Coal-fired plants are losing out to natural-gas-fired plants that can operate with fewer workers.

The Wildcat Point combined-cycle natural gas plant west of Newark, DE in Cecil County, MD employs about 30, even though it generates about double the amount of electricity as Indian River, which reportedly employs 170.

Natural gas prices have remained low due to growing supplies coming out of the Marcellus deposits in Pennsylvania. That has made coal less competitive. According to one report, the coal for the Indian River plant comes from an underground mine in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania.

Alternative energy sources, including wind and power, have also become more competitive with coal.

NRG, which acquired the Sussex County plant from Delmarva Power, spent an estimated $360 million to meet stiffer emissions standards.

As recently as 2007, plans had called for an expansion of the Indian River plant. That effort ended as opposition grew to new coal-fired plants and plans surfaced for an offshore wind project.

NRG later shelved the Bluewater Wind project off the coast at Rehoboth Beach.

At present Indian River ranks at the bottom of the top 15 sites in Delaware in total toxic emissions.

As of 2019, the Delaware City refinery operated by PBF Energy reported more toxic releases than the other 14 listed in an annual report from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

blankRanking from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control

There have been calls to close the power plant due to pollution and the effects of the coal ash.

NRG was hit hard by the winter storms that led to a near-collapse of the grid in Texas that left millions without power. The company reported a $1 billion loss that arose from the outages.

Extreme weather, few connections to the regional power grid, and lax regulations that did not require winterizing the grid and related facilities have been cited as contributors to the outages.

Texas continues to face challenges, with its grid operator advising residents to turn up their thermostats to avoid blackouts and brownouts during periods of hot weather.

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