Cumberland Steam Plant

From Global Energy Monitor

Cumberland Steam Plant is an operating power station of at least 2600-megawatts (MW) in Cumberland City, Stewart, Tennessee, United States with multiple units, some of which are not currently operating.


Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
Cumberland Steam Plant Cumberland City, Stewart, Tennessee, United States 36.389947, -87.651636 (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: 36.389947, -87.651636
  • Unit CC: 36.38995, -87.6516

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology CHP Start year Retired year
Unit 1 operating coal - bituminous 1300 supercritical 1973 2026
Unit 2 operating coal - bituminous 1300 supercritical 1973 2028
Unit CC announced[1][2][3] fossil gas - natural gas[2][3] 1450[1][3] combined cycle[1][3] 2026[1][3]

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
Unit 1 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) [100.0%]
Unit 2 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) [100.0%]
Unit CC Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) [100.0%]

Project-level coal details

  • Coal source(s): Highland 9 mine


The Cumberland power station has two coal-fired generating units and "net dependable generating capacity" of approximately 2,530 megawatts. TVA states that "the plant consumes some 7,200 tons of coal a day." Construction of the Cumberland power station commenced in 1968 and was commissioned in 1973. According to the TVA the "plant consumes about 20,000 tons of coal a day."[4]

In January 2023, rolling blackouts were caused by two pressure sensors at the Cumberland Steam Plant freezing in sub-zero temperatures. The trip caused an automatic shut off, and some residents were left without power for a full day.[5]

End of Coal Generation

In April 2021, TVA President Jeff Lyash said that he expect TVA to shut down Cumberland Steam Plant, Gallatin Fossil Plant, Kingston Fossil Plant and Shawnee Fossil Plant by 2035 without a detailed schedule.[6]

In January 2023, following two years of environmental review, the Tennessee Valley Authority formally announced that the power station's coal-fired units would be replaced by gas: the first unit would be retired and replaced with a 1,450-MW combined-cycle natural gas plant by 2026, and the second unit would be retired by 2028. TVA has not yet determined how it will replace the second unit.[7][8]

According to reporting from January 2024, the TVA said it might delay closure of the power station if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) did not promptly approve a proposed pipeline for a replacement gas-fired unit.[9] FERC approved the project the same month.[10]

In April 2024, the plant was preparing for the delivery of the equipment for the new combined-cycle unit. TVA is investing USD 2.1 billion in the project, including the construction of a new 500 kV switchyard at the Cumberland site. Up to 1,000 people will be working on the project in the next two years.[11]

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

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 19,049,068: tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 18,352 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 34,360 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 240 lb.

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Cumberland Steam 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.[12] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, 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. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. 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. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal 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.[13]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Cumberland Steam Plant

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 57 $420,000,000
Heart attacks 83 $9,100,000
Asthma attacks 940 $49,000
Hospital admissions 41 $950,000
Chronic bronchitis 34 $15,000,000
Asthma ER visits 56 $21,000

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

Coal waste

2010 study on Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Tennessee, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that was not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[14] The report mentioned Tennessee's Cumberland Steam Plant, Gallatin Fossil Plant and Johnsonville Fossil Plant as three sites that have groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[15]

2011 tests find groundwater contamination

In July 2011, tests found coal ash contamination in the groundwater of all but one of the 10 Tennessee Valley Authority plants assessed, including two sites where investigators say the pollution could pose a health hazard. The inspector general’s assessment pointed in particular to the contamination at the Gallatin Fossil Plant and Cumberland Steam Plant in Tennessee. Excessive levels of arsenic and other toxic metals from coal ash were detected at Cumberland, 50 miles northwest of Nashville, while beryllium, cadmium and nickel were discovered at Gallatin.

In addition, the inspector general said that TVA officials for more than 10 years have found indications that toxic metals could be leaking from a coal ash pond at the authority’s Allen Fossil Plant. Arsenic above currently allowable levels was found repeatedly in a monitoring well at the site, which lies above a deep, high-quality aquifer that supplies drinking water to Memphis and nearby areas.

A TVA spokeswoman told the newspaper in an email that, at the time of the testing at Allen, the contamination levels were within limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water. However, the inspector general’s report said that arsenic levels exceeded a tighter standard later adopted by the EPA.[16]

"High Hazard" Surface Impoundment

In July 2009, TVA reclassified the surface impoundment at Cumberland 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.[17]

Citizen groups


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Archived from the original on 26 December 2022. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Archived from the original on 18 November 2022. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Archived from the original on 31 January 2023. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. Tennessee Valley Authority, "Cumberland Fossil Plant", Tennessee Valley Authority website, accessed June 2008.
  5. "TVA, NES blame frozen pressure sensors, substation fire for rolling blackouts and prolonged outages", News Channel 5, January 12, 2023.
  6. "TVA announces plans to end coal-fired generation by 2035", April 29, 2021
  7. "TVA finalizes plan to transition Cumberland coal plant to natural gas" The Tennessean, January 10, 2023
  8. "TVA Approves Retirement of Cumberland, Replacement of One Unit With Natural Gas". TVA. Retrieved May 30, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. "TVA may delay 2,470-MW coal plant shutdown over FERC pipeline inaction," Utility Dive, January 4, 2024
  10. "FERC approves gas pipeline needed for TVA plan to shutter 2.5-GW coal-fired power plant". January 24, 2024. Retrieved June 14, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. "TVA Special Delivery Closes Cumberland Boat Ramp". TVA. April 9, 2024. Retrieved June 14, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  13. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  14. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  15. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  16. "Toxic Metals from Coal Ash Found in Groundwater at TVA Power Plants" Fair Warning, July 26, 2011.
  17. Coal waste

Articles and Resources


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.