Big Sandy Plant

From Global Energy Monitor

Big Sandy Plant is an operating power station of at least 281-megawatts (MW) in Louisa, Lawrence, Kentucky, United States with multiple units, some of which are not currently operating.


Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
Big Sandy Plant Louisa, Lawrence, Kentucky, United States 38.171133, -82.618458 (exact)

The map below shows the exact location of the power station.

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Unit-level coordinates (WGS 84):

  • Unit 1, Unit 2: 38.171133, -82.618458
  • Unit 1: 38.1707, -82.6176

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology CHP Start year Retired year
Unit 1 retired coal - bituminous 280.5 subcritical 1963 2016
Unit 1 operating[1] gas[1] 281[1] steam turbine[1] no[1] 2016[2]
Unit 2 retired coal - bituminous 816.3 supercritical 1969 2015

CHP is an abbreviation for Combined Heat and Power. It is a technology that produces electricity and thermal energy at high efficiencies. Coal units track this information in the Captive Use section when known.

Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details

Unit name Owner Parent
Unit 1 Kentucky Power Co [100.0%]
Unit 1 Kentucky Power Company[3] American Electric Power Co Inc (AEP) [100.0%]
Unit 2 Kentucky Power Co [100.0%]


Unit 2 (816 MW) was shut down in May 2015.[4]

Big Sandy Unit 1 may be rebuilt as a natural gas plant.[5] Unit 1 was closed in November 2015, and started producing electricity from gas on May 30, 2016.[6]

Coal plant closure

On June 9, 2011, AEP announced that, based on impending EPA regulations as proposed, AEP’s compliance plan would retire nearly 6,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-fueled power generation; upgrade or install new advanced emissions reduction equipment on another 10,100 MW; refuel 1,070 MW of coal generation as 932 MW of natural gas capacity; and build 1,220 MW of natural gas-fueled generation. The cost of AEP’s compliance plan could range from $6 billion to $8 billion in capital investment through the end of the decade. AEP’s current plan for compliance with the rules as proposed includes permanently retiring five of its coal-fueled power plants.[7]

In addition, six other plants which will reduce their power output:[8]

  • Big Sandy Plant, Louisa, Ky. - Units 1 and 2* (1,078 MW) retired by Dec. 31, 2014; Big Sandy Unit 1 would be rebuilt as a 640-MW natural gas plant by Dec. 31, 2015 (In December 2011, AEP said it plans to seek a 31 percent rate increase to keep Unit 2 in Kentucky operating, at a cost to customers of almost $1 billion.[9] On May 30, 2012, AEP withdrew that request, saying it may determine later if a scrubber is needed);[10];
  • Clinch River Plant, Cleveland, Va. - Unit 3 (235 MW) retired by Dec. 31, 2014; Units 1 and 2 (470 MW total) would be refueled with natural gas with a capacity of 422 MW by Dec. 31, 2014;
  • Conesville Power Plant, Conesville, Ohio - Unit 3 (165 MW) retired by Dec. 31, 2012; Units 5 and 6 (800 MW total) would continue operating with retrofits;
  • Muskingum River Plant, Beverly, Ohio - Units 1-4 (840 MW) retired by Dec. 31, 2014; Muskingum River Unit 5 (600 MW) may be refueled with natural gas with a capacity of 510 MW by Dec. 31, 2014, depending on regulatory treatment in Ohio;
  • Tanners Creek Plant, Lawrenceburg, Indiana - Units 1, 2 and 3 (495 MW) retired by Dec. 31, 2014; Unit 4 (500 MW) would continue to operate with retrofits; and
  • Welsh Power Plant, Pittsburg, Texas - Unit 2 (528 MW) retired by Dec. 31, 2014; Units 1 and 3 (1,056 MW) would continue to operate with retrofits.

Units 1 and 2 to be shut down by 2015

On December 19, 2012, Kentucky Power said it would retire Big Sandy units 1 and 2 in 2015. Unit 1 may be converted to natural gas, The power from Unit 2 will be obtained from AEP Ohio's Dean Mitchell Generating Station.[11]

On February 25, 2013, AEP announced that it had agreed to stop burning coal at its Big Sandy Power Plant Unit 2 by 2015, updating an earlier 2007 settlement over a lawsuit filed in 1999.[12]

Unit 2 (816 MW) was shut down in May 2015.[13]

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 6,830,275 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 46,476 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 13,851 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 281 lb.

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Big Sandy Plant

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[14] The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma-related episodes and asthma-related emergency room visits, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, peneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal-fired power plants. Fine particle pollution is formed from a combination of soot, acid droplets, and heavy metals formed from sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and soot. Among those particles, the most dangerous are the smallest (smaller than 2.5 microns), which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities.

The table below estimates the death and illness attributable to the Big Sandy Plant. Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[15]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Big Sandy Plant

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 55 $400,000
Heart attacks 85 $9,300,000
Asthma attacks 860 $45,000
Hospital admissions 41 $950,000
Chronic bronchitis 33 $15,000,000
Asthma ER visits 46 $17,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Coal Waste Site

Big Sandy ranked 40th on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste

In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.[16] The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.[17]

Big Sandy Plant ranked number 40 on the list, with 915,079 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.[16]

"High Hazard" Surface Impoundment

Big Sandy Plant's Fly Ash surface impoundment is on the EPA's official June 2009 list of Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) Surface Impoundments with High Hazard Potential Ratings. The rating applies to sites at which a dam failure would most likely cause loss of human life, but does not assess of the likelihood of such an event.[18]

Citizen groups

Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (November 2019)". Archived from the original on June 12, 2020. Retrieved September 10, 2021.
  2. Archived from the original on 29 June 2016. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. "U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860 detailed data with previous form data (EIA-860A/860B), 2018". Archived from the original on November 16, 2019. Retrieved September 10, 2021.
  4. "American Electric Power stops generation at 10 coal-fired plants," Platts, 1 June 2015
  5. Jim Polson, "AEP Cuts Amount of Coal-Fired Power Generation It Will Shut," Bloomberg, Feb. 10, 2012.
  6. "One unit of Big Sandy power plant finishes conversion from coal to gas," Lexington Herald Leader, June 27, 2016
  7. "AEP would shutter 5 coal plants to meet EPA rules" Coal Tattoo, June 9, 2011.
  8. [ "Return to News AEP Shutting 3 of 4 Units At Tanners Creek"] Eagle Country Online, June 10, 2011.
  9. Jim Polson, "AEP Cuts Amount of Coal-Fired Power Generation It Will Shut," Bloomberg, Feb. 10, 2012.
  10. "AEP drops plan to install scrubber on KY Big Sandy power plant," AP, May 30, 2012.
  11. "Kentucky Power files to transfer generation assets," AEP Kentucky Power press release, Dec. 19, 2012.
  12. Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, "American Electric Power agrees to close 3 coal plants in emissions settlement," Washington Post, Feb 25, 2013.
  13. "American Electric Power stops generation at 10 coal-fired plants," Platts, 1 June 2015
  14. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  15. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  16. 16.0 16.1 Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
  17. TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.
  18. Coal waste

Additional data

To access additional data, including interactive maps of the power stations, downloadable datases, and summary data, please visit the Global Coal Plant Tracker and the Global Oil and Gas Plant Tracker on the Global Energy Monitor website.