LOUISA, Ky., Sept. 24, 2016 – A cooling tower at the Big Sandy Power Plant that had been idled when EPA guidelines led to the closure of Unit 2 was imploded on Saturday.
The Unit 2 cooling tower, measuring 395 feet in diameter at its base and reaching 370 feet into the sky, came tumbling down at 9 a.m. as Bob Armstrong, a retired 30-year employee of the plant, pushed the button that triggered the blast. Some 500 pounds of explosives were used to bring down the tower.
“It’s a big thrill to be asked to do this,” said Armstrong, 85, of Louisa. “When I was asked if I would like to do this, I said, ‘Lord have mercy, I sure would.’ I was there when it was being built. I saw everything. I’ve been on top of that stack. It’s really something now to see it coming down.”
Kentucky Power contractor Independence Demolition of Independence, Ohio, and explosive demolition specialist Dykon of Tulsa, Okla., led the tower demolition in collaboration with construction trades and employees. Representatives from local, county and state agencies in West Virginia and Kentucky, including law enforcement, highways, 911 emergency services, fish and wildlife, and others, assisted on Saturday.
“We want to thank all the employees and the agencies for their cooperation and assistance,” said Big Sandy Plant Manager Aaron Sink. “The collaboration allowed for a safe, successful event. While today is bittersweet for many employees who enjoyed working at Big Sandy, it also demonstrates our commitment to paving the way for future economic growth in the area. We’re proud to build upon Big Sandy’s legacy in eastern Kentucky.”
Big Sandy’s Unit 2 went online in 1969 and was the first in a series of five 800 MW units installed on the AEP System in a four-year period. Unit 2 was retired from service in May 2015 to comply with new environmental regulations. Unit 2’s cooling tower, a closed cycle cooling system, used water from the Big Sandy River to cool 248,000 gallons of water a minute. By cooling the water, it could be re-circulated and reused in the power generation process. The closed system also meant that heated water was not discharged back into the river where it could disrupt the natural aquatic life. Big Sandy was the first to incorporate this system into a natural-draft cooling tower in the Western Hemisphere when Unit 1 went online in 1963. Big Sandy continues to use the Unit 1 cooling tower with the successful conversion from a coal-fired unit to a 280 megawatt, natural gas-burning unit in May 2016.
“From a historical perspective, this demolition is a milestone moment for AEP, Kentucky Power and eastern Kentucky,” said Kentucky Power President and COO Greg Pauley. “Unit 2 provided the region with safe, reliable and affordable electricity for nearly 50 years. While this event marks the end of an era, it also further cements Big Sandy’s new role.”
Kentucky Power, with headquarters in Frankfort, Ky., provides service to about 169,000 customers in 20 eastern Kentucky counties. It is a unit of the American Electric Power system, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, serving 5.4 million customers in 11 states.