It's out with coal and in with natural gas -- the new Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Hawkins County is now officially up and running. Officials dedicated the John Sevier Combined Cycle Gas Plant Thursday morning.
The heavy sound of machinery is the sound of a fresh start at TVA's John Sevier power plant.
Its former coal-fired facility is not currently in operation, but its brand-new neighbor is now fully operating on natural gas.
TVA leaders are celebrating a project that's been three years in the making. "As we stepped back and looked at the future of our portfolio and evaluated what type of generation resources best fit the needs of the TVA region to ensure that we have a reliable supply, natural gas is something we wanted to broaden," said Bob Dalrymple, TVA's vice president of gas operations.
That's because we learned natural gas is cheap right now, and it's easier to work with under federal regulations.
"Natural gas is a better fit, because it has lower overall emissions than some other sources of electricity like a coal plant," said Dalrymple.
News 5 took a tour inside the plant to see just how it works.
We learned three turbines use air and 150 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to produce up to 880 megawatts of electricity. That's enough to power about half-a-million homes.
To make all that electricity, we learned you've got to keep the equipment cool. That's why at the water cooling tower, the plant will go through 4,000 gallons of water every single minute.
The entire state-of-the-art facility is monitored in one single room through computers.
The price tag might sound like a lot of money. "We're coming in at $775 million," said Bob Deacy, TVA's senior vice president of generations.
But we found out it could help make electric bills more affordable by introducing a more balanced portfolio of electricity production, and it may even help bring in cash right here at home.
"Having a source of energy that's going to be there when we're out recruiting industry to come in, having this is going to be another plus for the whole region," said Mike Harrison, Tennessee's ninth district state representative.
We learned more facts about the new power plant:
This is TVA's 5th combined cycle natural gas-fired plant.
It produces the same amount of energy as the old coal plant, but has fewer emissions.
We're told the old coal-fired plant facility that's still on site will stay there for the time being.