GenOn’s Potomac River Generating Station is expected to cease operations on Monday, ending 63 years of coal-fired power production in north Old Town.
Alexandria will mark the occasion with a 9:30 a.m. press conference at the power plant’s main gate at the corner of N. Royal Street and Bashford Lane. Mayor Bill Euille and U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th), who is a former Alexandria mayor, are scheduled to speak.
Alexandria and GenOn struck an agreement to permanently close the plant on Aug. 30, 2011. Alexandria will release approximately $32 million currently held in escrow, which was set aside to pay for the additional environmental controls at the station as a result of a 2008 agreement between the city and GenOn.
Operations at the plant have scaled back in recent years, as it generally operated only on days of extreme heat or cold. Still, the plant has more than 100 employees, many of which GenOn has helped plan transitions since the closure was announced.
“What once was the largest stationary source of air pollution will be no more,” Moran said when the closure was announced. “Through citizen involvement and committed city officials, the Potomac River Generating Station and its 1949 coal-fired boilers will finally be shuttered.”
Government officials and others lauded the announcement at the time, while some looked to the future of the 25-acre site on the city’s waterfront.
Citizens opposing the city’s waterfront redevelopment asked that the GenOn site be included in discussions of that plan but Euille and others said the city was committed to moving forward with that plan as it was.
The American Clean Skies Foundation has a plan to redevelop the land with mixed-use buildings but no investors.
Despite the plant ceasing operation, it isn’t going to come down overnight. GenOn has no immediate plans to tear down the facility. Pepco also owns the site.
For Phillip Ellis, an organizer with the Sierra Club working out of an office in Del Ray that was established to monitor the plant, the impending closure marks the end of Alexandria’s struggle "to clean up the air" and "move away from dangerous fossil fuels.”
Ellis said along with the GenOn plant, nine other coal plants in the state owned by Dominion Virginia Power are scheduled to retire or transition from coal.
“The retirement of this plant is a perfect example of how a community can come together to create a clear and powerful reason for a company to finally do the right thing," he said. "Let’s build on this opportunity to create a clear and powerful message for Dominion to invest in a clean energy economy that’s built to last with good-paying jobs and healthier, more prosperous communities throughout Virginia.”
On Oct. 9, the city will celebrate the plant closure and acknowledge community members who helped monitor the plant with a reception at City Hall.