I was surprised to see this morning that it's been shut down since early March because it can't successfully bid to produce power against natural gas power plants, given the low price of natural gas:
With natural gas prices undercutting the cost of coal, the AES Cayuga power plant in Lansing has not produced electricity since early March.Coal prices vary a lot around the country - based on quality and proximity to markets. The best time series I was able to find at the EIA website was for Central Appalachian coal, and if I'm doing the math correctly (12000 btu/lb and 2000 lb/short ton) the comparison to Henry Hub natural gas prices looks like this:
This year, natural gas prices have dropped to lows unseen since 2002, and coal power plants around the state and country haven't been able to sell their power.
"Right now, with prices where they are, we're not economically viable," AES Cayuga Plant Manager Jerry Goodenough said.
The price of natural gas would need to nearly double for the plant to regain economic viability, according to Goodenough.
"If gas is trading at $1.90 or $2 per million BTU, and coal is trading at $4 per million BTU, a coal plant would need to get enough from its energy bid to recover for a $4 price, and gas is only $2," he said.
You can see that indeed this coal is not currently competitive with natural gas (though not as bad as the $4/mbtu that AES Cayuga apparently faces).
This does make it more concrete that the shale gas revolution has an environmental upside as well as a downside.