Colbert Fossil Plant

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Colbert Fossil Plant is a 476-megawatt (MW) gas-fired power station owned and operated by Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in Alabama.


The plant is near the Pickwick Reservoir on the Tennessee River.

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Plant Data

  • Owner: Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Parent: Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Location: 900 Colbert Steam Plant Rd., Tuscumbia, AL 35674
  • Coordinates: 34.743860, -87.849529
  • Gross generating capacity (operating): 476 MW
    • Unit GT1: natural gas[1] gas turbine[1] 59.5 MW[1] (start-up in 1972)[1]
    • Unit GT2: natural gas[1] gas turbine[1] 59.5 MW[1] (start-up in 1972)[1]
    • Unit GT3: natural gas[1] gas turbine[1] 59.5 MW[1] (start-up in 1972)[1]
    • Unit GT4: natural gas[1] gas turbine[1] 59.5 MW[1] (start-up in 1972)[1]
    • Unit GT5: natural gas[1] gas turbine[1] 59.5 MW[1] (start-up in 1972)[1]
    • Unit GT6: natural gas[1] gas turbine[1] 59.5 MW[1] (start-up in 1972)[1]
    • Unit GT7: natural gas[1] gas turbine[1] 59.5 MW[1] (start-up in 1972)[1]
    • Unit GT8: natural gas[1] gas turbine[1] 59.5 MW[1] (start-up in 1972)[1]
  • Gross generating capacity (retired): 1,350.0 MW
    • Unit 1: coal, 200.0 MW (start-up in 1955, retired in 2016)[2]
    • Unit 2: coal, 200.0 MW (start-up in 1955, retired in 2016)[2]
    • Unit 3: coal, 200.0 MW (start-up in 1955, retired in 2016)[2]
    • Unit 4: coal, 200.0 MW (start-up in 1955, retired in 2016)[2]
    • Unit 5: coal, 550.0 MW (start-up in 1965, retired in 2016)[2]
  • Technology: Subcritical
  • Coal type: Bituminous
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source: Little Creek Dock (Trafigura), BC #1 Deep Mine, Ceredo Dock (Alliance Coal), Arch Coal Terminal, Kentucky Coal Terminal, Docks Creek (Alliance Coal)[3]
  • Number of Employees:
  • Unit Retirements: All 5 units were retired in March 2016.[2]


The power plant retired its coal-fired units in 2016 and remains a gas-fired power plant since then.[2]

The Colbert power station had five coal-fired generating units and "net dependable generating capacity" of approximately 1,198 megawatts. TVA stated that "the plant consumes some 7,200 tons of coal a day." Construction of the Colbert power station commenced in 1951 and was commissioned in 1973. According to the TVA the "plant consumes about 8,900 tons of coal a day."[4]

November 2013: TVA announces plans to retire all units of Colbert

November 14 2013, TVA announced that it will retire all five units of the Colbert plant. The closure date was not specified. TVA also announced retirements at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant and the Paradise Fossil Plant.[5][6]

In July 2013 TVA announced plans to idle or remove from service units 1-4 starting June 30, 2016. The plans are the result of a 2011 Consent Decree arising out of consolidated litigation brought by several states and environmental groups for violations of the Clean Air Act. Under the decree, TVA was required to notify EPA of its plan for controlling air pollution at units 1-4 by June 30, 2013. Rather than installing new equipment, TVA opted to idle or retire the plants. According to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, unit 5 of the plant, which operated at only 15% of capacity in 2012, appeared also to be heading toward retirement.[7]

On March 23, 2016, the coal-fired power plant's last unit went offline. The other units were shut down over the previous few weeks. The plant was retired early as the system demand dropped and the coal on site was depleted.[8]

TVA at the Crossroads, produced by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 8,312,926 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 39,942 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 14,728 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 220 lb.


In February 2013, a coalition of environmental groups announced plans to file a lawsuit against TVA alleging that coal ash ponds at the Colbert plant are seeping arsenic, lead, selenium, cadmium, and other toxic heavy metals in to the groundwater below the ponds, and into Cane Creek and the Tennessee River. The groups say sampling around the Colbert plant has found arsenic levels 50 times higher than the state's maximum contaminant level, and that the ash ponds have been leaking pollutants into the surrounding waters for 30 years. TVA said it was reviewing the document.[9]

"High Hazard" Surface Impoundment

In July 2009, TVA reclassified the surface impoundment at Colbert as having High Hazard Potential. 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. TVA had originally ranked all of its sites as "low" risk, but revised those rankings two weeks after the EPA released its list of 44 "high hazard" coal ash dumps.[10]

Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at Colbert Plant waste site

A report released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011 stated that there are many health threats associated with a toxic cancer-causing chemical found in coal ash waste called hexavalent chromium. The report specifically cited 29 sites in 17 states where the contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash and included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin. In Alabama, the TVA Colbert Fossil Plant in Tuscambia and the TVA Widows Creek Fossil Plant in Stevenson were both reported as having high levels of chromium seeping from unlined retention ponds.[11]

According to EPA data, the TVA Colbert Fossil Fuel Plant's coal ash site is unlined. Hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) was reported at the site above 100 ppb (parts per billion) - 5,000 times the proposed California drinking water goals and above the federal drinking water standard.[11]

As a press release about the report read:

Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.[12]

Citizen Groups

See also Alabama and coal

Articles and Resources


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.29 1.30 1.31 "Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860) - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)". Retrieved 2022-12-14.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory", 860m March 2020
  3. "EIA 923 2015" EIA 923 2015.
  4. Tennessee Valley Authority, "Colbert Fossil Plant", Tennessee Valley Authority website, accessed June 2008.
  5. Paul Gattis, "TVA to cut more than 150 employees at two north Alabama plants," All Alabama, November 14, 2013
  6. Steven Mufson, "Tennessee Valley Authority to close 8 coal-fired power plants," Washington Post, November 14, 2013
  7. Angela Garrone, "TVA announces plans to idle Colbert Coal Plant units," Southern Alliance for Clean Energy blog, July 8, 2013
  8. "TVA's Colbert plant ends power production," Decatur Daily, March 24, 2016
  9. Ben Raines, "Suit alleges TVA Colbert plant in violation of Clean Water Act,", Feb. 13, 2013.
  10. Coal waste
  11. 11.0 11.1 "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
  12. "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer,, February 1, 2011.

Related articles

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