On-and-Off Wind and Solar Power Pushing Coal Plants to the Brink

By Chris Martin, Bloomberg

Nebraska Gentleman coal plant output slipped to 15% in April.

The Gentleman coal plant was once the linchpin of Nebraska’s electricity grid, its twin smokestacks visible for miles across the prairie. Now, the state’s biggest power source is routinely pushed aside to make room for more wind and solar energy.

Operators ramp it down and then bring it back up again, often on a daily basis. That’s not how coal-fired power plants are supposed to be used — they respond more like oil tankers than speed boats — and the stress is taking a toll on the aging equipment. Read more here.

Photo: The Gerald Gentleman Station in Nebraska. Source: Nebraska Public Power District
“These plants were designed to run at, or near, full capacity,” Mick Spencer, a plant manager for Nebraska Public Power District, which operates the Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland, Nebraska. “We aren’t doing that much anymore.”