Wisconsin Public Service Corp. will shut down its two oldest electricity-generating units, the coal-fired J.P. Pulliam Plant Units 5 and 6 in Green Bay.
The decision is the result of an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to repower, refuel or retire older units that produce high emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
The agreement also included two older units at the Weston power plant near Wausau. WPS spokesman Kerry Spees on Wednesday said they will make a decision on those units later this year.
The closure of the two Pulliam units will eliminate 10 jobs, through attrition or layoffs. Spees said some of the workers are temporary employees hired knowing the positions could end up eliminated.
WPS stopped running Units 5 and 6 full time about a year ago. Those two units came online in 1949 and 1951, respectively, and generate a combined 112 megawatts.
“In the current regional energy market, only the most efficient plants operate 24 hours every day as these units were designed,” said Paul Spicer, vice president-electric supply. “Converting the units or adding expensive environmental controls to keep them running just isn’t in our customers’ best interests.”
WPS said in February it signed two deals to buy power from a Canadian electric and natural gas utility company. The agreements with Manitoba Hydro, the major utility in the Canadian province of Manitoba, are for 108 megawatts between 2016 and 2021. The second is for 308 megawatts for up to 10 years starting in 2027, after Manitoba Hydro finishes construction of a proposed new hydroelectric power station.
A previously announced sale of 100 megawatts of power to WPS will run from 2021 to 2026, bridging the gap between the two deals.
Spees said WPS has enough access to electricity to meet customer needs and maintain a state-mandated 18 percent reserve margin after the units shut down. The state requires the margin as a hedge against brownouts during periods of unusually high demand; usually in the summer.
WPS’s highest electric demand was 2,425 megawatts in July 2006.
Pulliam Units 7 and 8, built in 1958 and 1964, respectively, will continue to operate. They generate about 200 megawatts. The plant also includes an 82-megawatt natural gas peaking turbine.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, at the end of 2012 there were 1,308 coal-fired generating units in the United States, totaling 310 gigawatts of capacity. In 2012 alone, 10.2 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity retired, representing 3.2 percent of the 2011 total.
The agency expects that 60 gigawatts of coal-fired plants will end up retired by 2020, many of them the result of same EPA requirements that led to the shutdown of the WPS units.