LOUISA – The Big Sandy Power Plant is once again generating electricity for Kentucky Power customers with the successful conversion to a natural gas-fired facility.
“The conversion of Big Sandy Unit 1 from coal to natural gas is a significant accomplishment,” said Kentucky Power President and COO Greg Pauley. “Our employees have done a fantastic job over the years and will continue to provide eastern Kentucky with safe, reliable and affordable electricity, generated now from natural gas at Big Sandy, as well as from coal at our Mitchell plant in West Virginia.”
Unit 1 opened at the Big Sandy plant in 1963 and operated until Nov. 13, 2015. The conversion to burn natural gas as a fuel started soon after. Major construction was completed by mid-May this year. On May 30, 2016, the converted unit went online to begin supplying up to 268 MW of gas-generated electricity to PJM Interconnection, the electricity grid operator for more than 61 million people in D.C. and 13 states, including Kentucky.
“Our goal here in doing this is to make a reliable grid to power our neighbors’ homes,” said Ricky Brown, an 8-year employee. “With the plant still here in Lawrence County, it provides jobs, it provides a tax base. It’s a big help for the community.”
Big Sandy and its employees have been a part of the community for more than 50 years, and will continue to be active supporters, said Big Sandy Plant manager Aaron Sink.
“We will always cherish the memories and what Big Sandy has meant and will continue to mean to the area,” Sink said. “We have provided low-cost electricity to the region and with this conversion will continue to do so well into the future.”
While the conversion marks the beginning of a new chapter for Big Sandy, it won’t be the last. Kentucky Power’s long-term plans include removing Unit 2 and redeveloping a portion of the site into an industrial park, Pauley said.
“The flat land at Big Sandy is located between a four-lane highway and the Big Sandy River,” Pauley said. “It has not only highway and river access, but also rail. It has the potential to be an ideal industrial park site and we look forward to pursuing that possibility for the region.”
Kentucky Power, a unit of American Electric Power, serves about 169,000 customers in 20 eastern Kentucky counties and owns 50 percent of the Mitchell Power Plant in Moundsville, W.Va.