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LG&E and KU make history with Kentucky’s first natural gas combined-cycle unit.

In early July 2015, LG&E and KU announced that Kentucky’s first natural gas combined cycle generating unit – Cane Run 7 – became commercially available. It took more than two and a half years and over two million construction hours to build the NGCC, which provides customers with another source of safe, reliable energy.

The unit marked the first-of-its-kind in the Commonwealth, making the changeover historic for both the company and the state of Kentucky.

Cane Run Station’s natural gas combined-cycle unit – Cane Run 7 – began commercial operation in June 2015.

The planning, permitting, construction and testing of this facility were years in the making. Not only is CR7 significant for the state of Kentucky, but it is also a significant part of LG&E and KU Energy’s ongoing efforts to look down the road and, with approval from the Kentucky Public Service Commission, put resources in place that allow the company to meet the future energy needs of its customers and evolve with an ever-changing industry."

CR7’s commercial operation marked the end of a remarkable construction period that saw more than 600 construction employees working on the project at its peak; a recordable incident rate of 0.37, which is one-tenth the average for industrial construction companies; and zero lost-time incidents.

The NGCC power plant first generates electricity through two gas turbines, and uses the exhaust heat from those units to generate steam and produce additional electricity using a steam turbine.

The single NGCC unit replaces the bulk of the 800 megawatts of coal-fired generation retired as the result of stricter U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandates governing coal-fired generation.

The transition from coal to natural gas brings an end to coal-fired generation at the Cane Run plant that spanned more than six decades and pioneered award-winning, environmental technology for the utility industry. The NGCC also means greater efficiency in power production and further reduction of emissions.

With these environmental efforts and CR7’s commercial operation, the company continues to produce energy cleaner than ever before — at Cane Run alone, reducing particulate emissions by more than half; sulfur dioxide emissions by 99 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 82 percent.

Innovative and cost-effective power generation

Cane Run Generating Station was the answer to Louisville’s electricity needs during the dynamic decade of the 1950s. Construction of this new coal-fired plant was started in 1952 to help meet the demand for electricity by industries that located in this area during and after the Second World War.

Cane Run began operation in November 1954, and by 1969 operated a total of six units. The new units were added in 1956, 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1969, increasing the total generating capacity to 943 megawatts.

Units 1, 2 and 3 were retired by 1987. Cane Run Unit 6 was retired in March of 2015, and Units 4 and 5 were retired shortly after CR7 went into operation. 

At one time, the primary fuel for the Cane Run plant was high-sulfur coal shipped by rail from western Kentucky and southern Indiana. The plant burned about 1.5 million tons annually. The station’s environmental controls included an electrostatic precipitator, low-NOx burners, and a wet lime scrubber.

July 1979 — President Jimmy Carter visits Cane Run

LG&E pioneered SO2 removal technology, and helped develop and install one of the nation’s first SO2 scrubbers in 1973. Scrubbers are environmental controls that remove SO2 from gases produced by burning coal. LG&E received coveted awards and was recognized nationally and internationally for its efforts in the use of scrubbers. In July 1979, President Jimmy Carter visited Cane Run to learn about the operation of a coal-fired plant and see LG&E’s scrubbers in action.

Carter advocated the use of coal in ways that would not be harmful to the environment, and he specifically chose to visit an LG&E plant because of the company’s reputation for being a leader in the development and use of scrubbers. The presidential visit was a proud moment for Cane Run Station and LG&E. Many of the employees who were present then are still with the company today.

Cane Run Generating Station quick facts

  • Net generating capacity: 640 Megawatts
  • Original startup date: 2015
  • Fuel: Natural gas
  • Number of units in service: 1