Elmer Smith’s Stacks Imploded

The stacks at the former Elmer Smith Power Plant were imploded today.

The stacks at the former Elmer Smith Power Plant were imploded today.

Video courtesy of Adam Paris/AP Imagery.

Constructed by Owensboro Municipal Utilities (OMU) through a joint agreement with Kentucky Utilities to serve Owensboro and Louisville, Elmer Smith began producing power when Unit 1 (137 MW) was put into operation in 1964. Unit 2( 263 MW) was added in 1974.

The coal-fired facility was built during a time of double-digit increases in the demand for power statewide and in the Southeast, and cheap coal was readily available as it was being mined extensively throughout the western Kentucky coalfields. OMU’s customers enjoyed the lowest electricity rates in the country and spurred economic development throughout the region.

In 2012, OMU began a thorough appraisal of Elmer Smith’s generating costs in light of the need to rehabilitate its aging equipment and upgrade its coal ash handling and pollution control systems. It was determined that it would cost more to keep the power plant open than to close it, which was backed up by another analysis in 2016. The latter study found that upgrading Elmer Smith could hike OMU’s retail electricity rates by 80% by 2025.

Instead of upgrading Elmer Smith, OMU opted to purchase 175 MW of coal-fired capacity from Big Rivers Electric, 26 MW from hydropower, and 32 MW from a solar installation. Elmer Smith’s Unit 1 ceased operations in 2019, followed by Unit 2 in 2020.

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