The Brunner Island power plant is located on the right bank of Susquehanna River in East Manchester Township, York County, Pennsylvania, US. Image courtesy of Dicklyon.
The Brunner Island power station was subjected to the biggest coal ash penalty in Pennsylvania’s history. Image courtesy of Lee Barrows.
Talen Energy will stop burning coal at the Brunner Island power plant from 2028 onwards. Image courtesy of bartb_pt.

The Brunner Island power plant, also known as the Brunner Island steam electric station, is a 1.4GW coal and natural gas-fired power plant located in York County, Pennsylvania, US. The co-fired power plant is currently owned and operated by Talen Energy.

Originally developed by Pennsylvania Power and Light Corporation (PPL), the Brunner Island power plant comprised three coal-fired units that were commissioned between 1961 and 1969.

Talen Energy became the owner and operator of the plant after PPL spun off its competitive energy business and merged it with the generation assets of Riverstone Holdings to create Talen Energy as a new independent power producer in June 2015.

PPL, the previous owner, had completed a major retrofit programme to improve the environmental performance plant in 2010, while Talen Energy added gas-firing capacity at the plant in 2017, as part of a £65m ($100m) investment announced in 2015.

The Brunner Island power plant, however, has been under scanner by numerous environmental organisations and recently has been subjected to penalties and legal settlements on environmental violation charges.

Coal ash penalty

In July 2019, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced a settlement with Talen Energy and four environmental groups represented by Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), following a court-finalised Consent Decree, under which Talen Energy agreed to pay a penalty of $1m for toxic coal ash pollutions from the Brunner Island facility.

It is the biggest coal ash penalty in the state of Pennsylvania till date.

The settlement was reached in response to the threatening by four environmental groups namely Environmental Integrity Project, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, PennEnvironment, and Waterkeeper Alliance to sue Talen Energy over Clean Water Act violations in 2018.

Settlement with Sierra Club

In response to a Notice of Intent (No) issued by Sierra Club, another environmental organisation, to sue the Brunner Island facility for air and water pollution, Talen Energy reached an agreement to operate the facility only on natural gas from May through December every year from 2023 onwards.

As part of the settlement, Talen Energy also agreed to abandon coal-firing at the plant from 2028 onwards.

Location and site details

The Brunner Island power plant is located along the western shore of Susquehanna River in East Manchester Township, near York Haven in the York County of Pennsylvania, US.

The thermal power station provides electricity to approximately one million households in the region.

Brunner Island power plant make-up

Brunner Island steam electric generation station comprises three units commissioned in 1961, 1965, and 1969, respectively.

Units one and two have generating capacities of 334MW and 390MW respectively, while the unit three has an installed capacity of 759MW.

The first two units are equipped with steam turbine generators from Westinghouse, while the unit three uses a GE steam turbine generator. All the three units use tangential boilers provided by Combustion Engineering (CE), the boiler and fossil fuel businesses of which were acquired by Alstom in 2000.

All units of the plant are equipped flue gas desulfurisation (FGD) systems and electrostatic precipitators for pollution control.

PPL had spent approximately £600m ($840m) on the facility upgrade between 2000 and 2010 to meet new environmental regulations by the state and Federal authorities.

The plant upgrade included new 34-cell mechanical draft cooling towers, installation of scrubbers, and an industrial waste water treatment plant at the site.

The Brunner Island power station currently has one active ash basin and land-fill site. Five previously used ash basins and seven landfill areas for the plant have been declared closed.

Contractors involved

McDermott was engaged for FGD installation at all the three units of the Brunner Island power plant between 2007 and 2010.

The plant’s pre-existing WDPF® combustion controls were replaced with Emerson’s Ovation™ simulation solutions to monitor and control the boiler, turbine, and FGD operations of each unit by 2008.

Emerson also provided smart wireless network to help determine the thermal efficiency of the feed-water heater and the air preheating systems of the plant.

Structural Technologies and its subsidiary Pullman were engaged for strengthening the concrete coal silos of the plant with carbon fibre.

Patterson-Kelley was contracted for the design and delivery of tube bundles for two of the three generators of the plant in 2018.