Jun. 7—The closure of the Homer City Generating Station — the largest coal-fired power plant in the state — will not adversely impact the power grid serving Pennsylvania and 12 other states, a regional electricity transmission organization said Tuesday.
The Indiana County facility is scheduled to be decommissioned as of July 1. The Pennsylvania-Jersey-Maryland Interconnection grid, better known as the multi-state PJM, serves 65 million customers.
While Homer City's three units can generate about 1,884 megawatts, it had been operating at about 25% of capacity. The power plant, which has two units built in 1969 and the other in 1977, competes with natural gas-fired plants that produce lower-cost power.
Homer City Generation L.P. announced March 31 it would wind down operations this summer in the face of the low price of natural gas, a "dramatic spike" in its coal supply costs, and stringent environmental regulations that pose an "excessive economic and operational burden."
NRG Energy Inc. of Houston, which operated the Homer City power plant in Center Township, notified the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry it would begin layoffs of its 129 workers at the power plant on July 3 and those reductions in the workforce will continue until Oct. 16.
In the report presented Tuesday to PJM's transmission advisory committee, the plant was identified as one of 15 coal-fired power plants that were being deactivated out of 19 plants in total that would be shut down since PJM's regional transmission expansion plan was announced in 2021.
As a result of the plant's closing, the state contacted the federal government's Rapid Response Team to explore options for bringing federal assistance to Indiana County, said Chad Newton, a spokesman for the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
"We have engaged with the economic development leadership in Indiana and have had regular conversations with the ownership group and operators of the plant. We will continue to work on a number of fronts to help address issues related to the power plant closure," Newton said.
The state economic development department had prepared a detailed study on the site of the former coal-fired Sunbury Power Plant on an island in the Susquehanna River, about 40 miles north of Harrisburg. The department has not said it would do the same for the site at Homer City.
Byron G. Stauffer, executive director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, said that all levels of government are working "through the challenges, issues and opportunities....including focused attention to the impacted workforce."
There have been several meetings about plant and the property is a unique asset not only to Indiana County, Stauffer said, but also the region and as such it is getting the full measure of attention.
Stauffer previously said the plant ownership had not said what it would do with property once the coal plant is deactivated.
Ray Zaborney, a spokesman for Homer City Generation, could not be reached for comment.
If the plant ownership wants to convert the coal-fired boilers to burn natural gas to generate electricity, the main driver in the cost would be the proximity to a gas pipeline of sufficient size to feed a utility-scale power plant, said Michael Caravaggio, director of research and development at the Electric Power Research Institute. The California-based nonprofit conducts research and development on generating and transmitting electricity.
Peoples Gas, which provides natural gas service in Indiana County, said a natural gas supply line the size of a 16-inch pipe or larger likely would be needed to feed a gas-fired power plant.
There is not a pipeline of sufficient size near the plant, Stauffer said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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