Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The power plants of Cheshire, Ohio

The other day while I was in Cheshire, I decided I needed to update my photos of the two power plants there. The first one is the Gavin plant. It was built in the early 1970s, and it's one of the largest plants on the AEP system.

It also used to be one of the dirtiest. In the 1980s it was blamed for a good part of the acid rain problem in the Northeast. Gavin used to have smokestack that was maybe 1,300 feet high. The yellow-brown plume that came out of it drifted high into air an far off into the distance. In 1984, a couple of protesters from Greenpeace got inside the plant property and climbed to the top of the stack and unfurled a banner.

Most of that stack is gone now. Scrubber systems produce a smoke plume that is much wetter, and the old concrete stacks are too tall. Normally, AEP leaves the old stacks in place because the cost of removing them is so high, but I've been told by folks on the inside that the Gavin stack interfered with the air flow around the two new stacks, so they had to take the old one down part of the way.

By the way, whenever I'm on the back road getting pictures of Gavin from the rear, I feel as though someone is watching me for fear I'm a a terrorist or worse, an environmentalist. This past weekend, I think someone in an unmarked car was following me. I would stop in the road and wave them around, but they never went. I had discussed this sort of thing with an AEP p.r. person a few days before my photo expedition. I told her that the next time I plan on getting photos from the public right of way from a certain spot that's closer than this, I will let the AEP people know ahead of time.

This next photo is of the Kyger Creek plant.

Back in the late 1960s, about all there was to this plant was the orange brick building that's now buried under all the other stuff plus three smokestacks. Those stacks poured out some thick, dark smoke. And at night, the "Kyger Creek" sign was all lit up nice. In the early 1980s, the smaller stacks were replaced by the big stack you see here. And lately, with the scrubbers added, the big stack was replaced by the shortr one.

IIRC, Kyger Creek was one of two plants built by a consortium of electric utilities to supply electricity to the uranium enrichment plant at Piketon, Ohio. That's why I chuckle when people refer to nuclear power as being much less of a carbon dioxide emitter than coal power. Making the fuel for a nuclear power plant takes a lot of electricity, and unless you have another nuclear plant dedicated to doing just that, you're burning coal to make nuclear power.

Both plants get most if not all of their coal by barge, by the way. The AEP dock at Lakin, W.Va., is maybe a mile up the river from Gavin. Again, IIRC, the AEP river operations at Lakin were formerly owned by the O.F. Shearer Co. AEP bought out Shearer's river operations, and for several years the M/V Oliver C. Shearer and the Lelia C. Shearer wore the old AEP oval on their stacks.

Zebra mussels

It took a while, but I finally found a formerly submerged object that had been colonized by zebra mussels. Or, I think they were zebra mussels.

Funny, they don't look the end of the world ecologically speaking from this angle.

Note to self: Next time, get out of your "take only pictures and leave only footprints" mode, get a little water and wash the mud off these things so you can get a better look at them.