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SWEPCO’s Welsh Unit 2 Celebration and Retirement

by on April 27, 2016
Southwestern Electric Power Company’s Welsh Unit 2 retires under an April Texas sky.

(Story by Scott McCloud)

After a 36-year career in the Wyoming-coal generation business, Welsh Unit 2 retired from service April 15 to meet environmental compliance regulations. The unit began commercial operation March 11, 1980, as part of Southwestern Electric Power Company’s (SWEPCO’s) new power plant construction plans in the late 1970s-early 1980s. Units 1 and 3 have gone through retrofits and will remain in service.

Employees and guests came together for an “aloha” lunch celebration marking the long-time service of the 528-megawatt (MW) Unit 2.

“You are resilient and have worked hard over the years to keep Unit 2 viable and beneficial to our customers, and we appreciate you,” said Brian Bond, SWEPCO vice president-external affairs. “The Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) rule required major work at our six coal facilities, and with budget considerations, we agreed in 2011 to be environmentally-conscious and retrofit two units at Welsh for $411 million and close Unit 2 by April 2016.”

“In the last six months, there have been major turbine inspections, new controls and overhauls on Units 1 and 3 with no recordables, and our last OSHA incident at the plant was 652 days ago,” added Tommy Slater, Welsh power plant manager. Unit 3 came online in March and Unit 1 begins generating megawatts after retrofits April 22. Awards won by the plant were on display at the celebration, including four-time winner for Best Coal-Fired Boiler EFOR (Equivalent Forced Outage Rate).

Employees submit coal tonnage and MWH guesses at the plant awards table.

Attendees were invited to submit guesses to win prizes on Welsh Unit 2 milestones. Mike McMahon was the closest to the amount of coal used by the unit since 1980, which was 62.7 million tons. Alice Cogburn won the megawatt-hours (MWHs) generated since 1980, which was 102.7 million MWHs.

Harvey Hamm, operations specialist, who came to Welsh in 1977, shared memories from the early days at the plant: “Just prior to Unit 2 coming online, I spent many days and nights monitoring the filter press during the turbine oil flush as I worked to become a control center operator. A mouse paid visits to me during this time, and I trained him to eat crackers from my hand… Also, I had my first staring role in a TV production in 1986 while standing in front of the Unit 2 control board as “Bring It On Powder River” was filmed, which can still be found in the AEP-TV video library.”

“Great management under John Turk’s leadership from the production side at the time allowed SWEPCO to build plants efficiently and use low-cost coal as a major fuel source,” said Paul Franklin, vice president, Generating Assets, SWEPCO. “Our options now for generation also include natural gas and renewables in the mix and we are confident the future looks bright for SWEPCO.”

The Welsh Power Plant, with more than a $9 million annual payroll, contributes some $4.1 million in local taxes and about $300,000 in Texas state taxes to local communities.

From → News From AEP

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