Of the 10 U.S. power plants that generated the most electricity in 2019, nine were nuclear plants, a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration states.
These 10 facilities produced a combined 230 million megawatt hours of electricity last year, accounting for 5.6 percent of all electricity generation in the United States, according to the report. The report also notes a shift in the makeup of the top plants over the past 10 years, from a mix of nuclear and coal-fired generators in 2010 to nearly all nuclear in 2019.
Coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation dropped from 45 percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2019, the reports says. Stricter air emission standards and decreased cost competitiveness relative to other generators are given as the key reasons for coal’s decade of decline.
The power elite: Topping the list of U.S. power generators:
- Arizona Public Service’s Palo Verde plant
- Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry
- Exelon Generation’s Peach Bottom
- STP Nuclear Operating Company’s South Texas Project
- Duke Energy’s Oconee
- Florida Power & Light Company’s West County Energy Center (the list’s lone natural gas plant)
- Susquehanna Nuclear’s Susquehanna
- Exelon’s Braidwood
- Exelon's Byron
- Southern Nuclear’s Vogtle
From the report: “The Palo Verde, Browns Ferry, and Oconee nuclear power plants have consistently been among the 10 largest generators of electricity in the United States because they are the only nuclear plants with three reactor units, which gives them more generating capacity. A plant’s refueling and maintenance schedules may also affect annual electric power generation capacity. For example, Comanche Peak was one of the top 10 highest-generating power plants in 2010 but was not one in 2019 because scheduled refueling and maintenance reduced plant availability in 2019.”
The report also notes that almost all of the U.S. power plants that generated the most electricity in 2019 were in the eastern half of the country, and they tended to be close to areas with high electricity demand, such as major cities or industrial production centers.
Note: Despite its status as the ninth highest power generator in the United States in 2019, the two-unit Byron plant in Illinois has been slated for premature retirement. According to Exelon, the plant, along with the utility’s Dresden facility, faces financial problems “because of declining energy prices and market rules that allow fossil fuel plants to underbid clean resources in the PJM Interconnection capacity auction.”