Plant Hammond

Plant Hammond on the Coosa River has been in operation since the 1950s. (Contributed photo)

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is calling for the closure of Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond west of Rome, citing a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

A spokesman for the utility said Georgia Power is aware of the report but has no plans to shut down the 61-year-old plant.

“It’s fairly ancient in terms of electricity generation facilities. In a way, it’s a dinosaur,” said Karl Cates, a spokesman for IEEFA. “There are emerging alternatives, there are current alternatives that Georgia Power could be using that wouldn’t be costing its ratepayers so much. This thing ought to be shuttered.”

The IEEFA report claims the cost for electricity generated at Plant Hammond increased from $56.83 per megawatt hour in 2010 to $94.18 per megawatt hour in 2014.

John O’Brien, a communications officer for Georgia Power, said the company does not divulge specific operating costs.

The utility makes every effort to dispatch all of its generation units “in the most cost effective way for customers,” he said.

The IEEFA report also alleges that the amount of power produced at Plant Hammond has declined significantly since 2007.

A graph from the Energy Information Administration included in the report indicates the four units at Plant Hammond produced more than 4.7 million megawatt hours of power in 2007 but that figure had dropped to a little more than a million megawatt hours in 2014.

The authors of the report also speculate the utility is not likely to increase production at Hammond in the foreseeable future.

Natural gas prices are expected to remain low and Georgia Power is expected to bring 1,000 megawatts of new solar capacity online in the next year or two, followed by the additional capacity at the nuclear Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro in the coming decade, the report stated.

O’Brien said fuel, operating costs and a host of other factors play a role in the rise and fall of power generation figures.

In 2013, Georgia Power received approval for the decertification and retirement of 15 coal and oil-fired generating units capable of generating as much as 2,061 megawatts of electricity. Those units were located at Plant Branch in Putnam County, Plant Yates in Coweta County, Plant McManus in Glynn County and Plant Kraft in Chatham County.

O’Brien said that comparing certain plants to other plants across the Georgia Power network is not always an apples-to-apples comparison.

For example, O’Brien said generation at coal, natural gas or nuclear plants is essentially available on-demand while power from renewable sources like wind or solar power is intermittent and not always available.

“A diverse generation mix is essential to meeting the needs of our customers reliably and affordably,” O’Brien said.

The IEEFA report also alleges that the cost of generating power at Plant Hammond is expected to increase in the future, “as a result of costly upgrades to add cooling towers and effluent treatment controls.”

Georgia Power indicated the Georgia Environmental Protection Division has not requested the installation of cooling towers at Plant Hammond.

The Coosa River was included in the Georgia Dirty Dozen report issued by the Georgia Water Coalition because of the super-heated water discharged back into the river from Plant Ham­mond.

The plant has added several environmental controls to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury, according to O’Brien.

Indeed, the IEEFA report shows that since 2008, Georgia Power has made more than $537 million in capital investments at the plant.

From a local perspective, closing Plant Hammond would impact 190 employees.

Floyd County Tax Commissioner Kevin Payne also estimated the closure could cost the county about $5 million in tax revenue.

“That would be a big blow,” Payne said.