Retired units at Alabama Power’s Plant Gorgas carefully coming down

Retired units at Alabama Power’s Plant Gorgas carefully coming down
Demolition of Alabama Power Plant Gorgas Units 6 and 7 is bringing an end to more than 50 years of service of the coal-fired units. (Christopher Jones / Alabama NewsCenter)

From Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama.

For more than 50 years, and through 11 presidencies, Units 6 and 7 at Plant Gorgas in Walker County helped provide reliable electricity to Alabama Power customers.

Almost two years ago, on April 30, 2015, however, toughening federal environmental regulations forced the retirement of the two coal-fired units. Now the 135-foot structure that housed Gorgas 6 and 7 is being carefully disassembled.

When the two units first came on line in 1953, they were a great leap forward from the ones that preceded them, said Plant Gorgas project engineer Forrest Waldo, who is managing the demolition project. “These bigger units had a capacity to generate 100 megawatts compared to 60 megawatts from the earlier units,” he said.

The demolition process started last fall and is expected to conclude in March of next year. In all, 68 contract and company personnel are currently working on the project.

“They will not be imploding any structures,” said Project Manager Luke Bohnenkamp. “Rather, we will be cutting them with large hydraulic shears and pulling them to the ground for further processing.”

Asbestos removal began last September on the interior and exterior of the units. The pace quickened this month as smaller support buildings such as hoppers, coal conveyors, tanks and environmental monitoring equipment were taken down.

Also in March, the units’ 350-foot tall stack – along with an unused 750-foot stack formerly serving Unit 10  – will slowly be brought down using a remote controlled hydraulic hammer to chip the structures a little bit at a time; allowing the brick liner and concrete shell to fall to the center of the stacks for removal.

In April, disassembly will begin on the main structures, including the boiler houses, turbine floors and precipitators, environmental controls that capture fine particles following the combustion process.

Metals will be recycled along with some of the waste oils. Some concrete and brick will be crushed and used as backfill in the basement. The remainder will be taken to a landfill.

Restoration of the roughly 5-acre site of the two units will be finished in July of next year. The company has no specific plans for the site.

Gorgas 6 and 7 are two of three coal-fired units the company has retired in the last two years. The other unit is at Plant Barry in Mobile County. The company also has been converting coal units to natural gas because of federal environmental mandates. Since 2015, the company has reduced its coal fleet from 23 units to 10.

Over the past 15 years, Alabama Power has invested about $4 billion on environmental controls and projects to meet more stringent federal environmental regulations.

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