Oregon’s Last Coal-Fired Power Plant Is Taken Down By An Explosion

The last remaining coal-fired power station in Oregon was demolished on Thursday morning using explosives to bring down the 656-foot-tall smokestack and boiler.

The BOARDMAN, Oregon — When the Boardman Coal plant in Oregon shut down two years ago, it was the state’s sole remaining coal-fired power station. On Thursday morning, the plant was given a fittingly explosive sendoff.

At 10 a.m. on Thursday, demolition crews detonated explosives to bring the 656-foot smokestack crashing down in a controlled fall, together with the boiler, bringing down the majority of the plant’s main building.

Portland General Electric claims that explosives were strategically positioned around the base of the stack and the boiler support structure and detonated simultaneously. When the stack and supporting framework finally gave way, it took around 20 seconds.

“This plant, whether you’re against coal or not, has played a vital part in Oregon and the west in general,” said Brad Jenkins, PGE’s vice president of utility operations. Boardman, in the Columbia River Gorge, is about 170 miles east of Portland, and there you’ll find the power plant.

A report by PGE claims that its operation began in 1980 and continued for a full four decades. During a tour before its closure, workers said that at full capacity, the plant consumed five and a half tonnes of coal per minute, generating enough electricity to supply nearly 500,000 homes.

Plant decommissioning was scheduled for October 2020, but its early closure in response to a 2010 settlement in an environmental lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club was already in the works. Jenkins remarked, “The coal plant has been basically a workhorse of the fleet for forty years.

If you look around the landscape, we’ve got lots of clean and renewable energy sources coming in, and this is just part of that transition.” As the stack collapsed, a group of former employees and county residents reflected on the plant’s impact on their little Eastern Oregon town. Morrow County Commissioner Don Russell stated he would no longer be able to view the coal stack from his home if he faced south.

According to Russell, many of the people who worked at the coal plant have retired, while some have found new work with PGE and others have been laid off.

At one time, this facility was the single most important source of revenue for Morrow County “- Russell remarked. Even though Morrow County has expanded and diversified its economy somewhat in the forty years after the plant debuted, the plant’s 125 permanent positions were highly sought after.

Wheatridge Renewable Energy, a wind, solar, and battery storage project located about 30 miles from the Boardman plant, is part of PGE’s plans to replace the supply from the Boardman plant, as the company has shifted its focus toward larger renewable and non-polluting electricity sources.

In the late 1970s, George Gritz and Dave Aldritt helped construct the facility, and they were both present to observe its destruction.

Aldritt claimed that “a lot of work was put into it,” and that the structure’s destruction did not take long. “It’s disheartening to think of all that infrastructure going to waste, especially because the plant was still operational when it was shut down.

Since the electricity transmission equipment is still in place after the coal plant was razed, Jenkins said PGE still has ambitions for the area. “It’s obvious that we’d welcome the addition of another resource in the area,” he said.

Gritz and Aldritt have stated that they would welcome solar panels as a viable alternative energy source for the site. A large solar farm may be built out here, so I’m crossing my fingers that another one comes along,” Gritz remarked.

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