Georgia Power is continuing to make the switch to natural gas units at Plant McDonough Atkinson, which means the days are numbered for the plant’s towering smokestack.
The smokestack has risen high above Smyrna and Vinings since the plant was constructed in the 1960s. Lynn Wallace, a Georgia Power representative, said that for some it has become an Atlanta landmark.
“They see it and they say, ‘Oh there’s the smokestack. Turn left at the smokestack,’” she said. “It’s a part of history. It’s a part of our company. It’s certainly a landmark and it’s always sad to see those stages move on to the next step, but this is very exciting that we’re bringing on natural gas units.”
Georgia Power brought its second of three natural gas units on-line at Plant McDonough Thursday, April 26. The first unit became operational in December 2011 and the third is expected to come on-line in November 2012. Wallace said these three units will improve air quality and be more cost effective because of the lower cost of natural gas.
“It’s to help meet expected growth in customer electricity needs and ensure reliability in metro Atlanta and north Georgia,” she said. “That plant is also used to maintain voltage stability on our systems. It’s really the only plant that we have in metro Atlanta, so it really served a very important role for reliability and voltage stability. But we really need it to help meet the demands of our customers in metro Atlanta and north Georgia.”
Combined the three new natural gas units will create 2,500 megawatts of power, enough to power 625,000 homes, compared to the 517 megawatts generated by the coal units. The new natural gas units will also have an impact on Georgia Power customers’ bills.
“The cost to bring these new units on-line is just now hitting customer bills,” Wallace said. “There will be some rate impacts as a result of these units. I believe customers have already begun to pay for the first two units already. Then we’ll be bringing on the third unit, which is the final natural gas unit at Plant McDonough, in November. Then customers will begin paying for that unit, I believe, the following January of ’13.”
But what about Plant McDonough’s smokestack? Wallace said Georgia Power will begin dismantling the smokestack piece by piece this summer.