The last coal-fired power station in Scotland shuts down today. Longannet Power Station in Fife will switch-off the last of its four generating units at 3pm today for the last time, concluding a 46-year shift for Scotland’s largest power station and the end of coal-fired electricity production in Scotland.
Constructed over eight years, Longannet was the largest coal power station in Europe when it came online in 1969. Capable of producing 2,400 megawatts (MW) of electricity for the grid, Longannet powered over 2 million homes on average every year it was operational.
The last megawatt from Longannet will be generated at 3pm when the final unit is ‘desynchronised’. Even through the final winter, Longannet has been feeding electricity into the grid and on average produced enough electricity to provide more than 25% of all the homes in Scotland.
“Longannet has contributed more electricity for the national grid than any other power station in Scotland’s history, and it is a sad day for everyone at ScottishPower," said Hugh Finlay, Generation Director at ScottishPower.
“Originally designed to run for 25 years, the success of Longannet has been driven by substantial investment over the years and by the dedication of the men and women overseeing the station’s operations. Over the station’s lifetime thousands of people have worked tirelessly to keep Longannet running safely, and our thanks go out to every single person involved," he added.
Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, welcomed the historic event.
“For the first time in at least 115 years there will be no coal being burnt to make electricity anywhere in Scotland. For a country which virtually invented the Industrial Revolution, this is a hugely significant step, marking the end of coal and the beginning of the end for fossil fuels in Scotland. It is also a big step for Europe, with Longannet the third largest coal plant in the EU," said Dixon.
“Coal is the dirtiest of the main fossil fuels and in a peak year Longannet was producing 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, around a fifth of all Scotland’s climate change emissions. The closure of Longannet will be the single biggest reduction in Scotland’s climate change emissions ever.
“For those who’ve worked at the plant it may well be an emotional day but as a country it shows the positive steps we’ve taken in the fight against climate change and for clean, renewable energy. These men and women can be proud of the work they have done but there should be no place for such polluting activities in Scotland’s energy future.”
ScottishPower has been working closely with the Trade Unions, Local Councils and The Scottish Government to assess and manage the impact of Longannet’s closure. ScottishPower says it has been in discussions with all the 236 employees and a number of opportunities have been made available for redeployment to other areas of the corporation's business, and early retirement and redundancy packages have also been offered.
Around 45 team members will remain at the station until the end of December, working as part of the decommissioning team.
No decisions have been taken on the future of the site, but ScottishPower expects to outline its plans before the end of the year.
In September of last year, residents in the Edinburgh area gathered to watch the spectacular demolition of the Cockenzie Coal power station on the outskirts of the city.
Push for renewables
ScottishPower recently announced major investment plans for the next 5 years, with £1.3 billion set to be invested on average every year until 2020. During 2016 ScottishPower will continue work on a sub-sea interconnector between Ayrshire and the Wirral, a £500 million investment, which will increase the export of renewables and strengthen security of supply.
Six new onshore windfarms with investment of over £650 million are also currently in construction, and over £500 million will be spent this year strengthening the network of cables, power lines and substations that keep the lights on for 2.5 million homes and businesses.
Before the end of 2016 ScottishPower will also open their new HQ, the largest single-occupier office to be built in Glasgow for two decades.
Longannet by numbers
Longannet has produced over 400 terawatt hours (TWH) of electricity during its lifetime, enough to power 2.3million homes every year for 46 years.
Since the first unit was commissioned, the station has run for a cumulative 918,315 operating hours, with Unit Two the highest at over 235,000 hours. Each of the four generating units has been in operation for over 200,000 hours
During its lifetime the station has seen major changes in operating regimes moving from base load operation, for example in 1981 Unit One ran for 332 days of the year (91% availability), to a flexible two-shift operation regime, resulting in the plant making more than 4850 starts.
Longannet has used over 177 million tonnes of coal, 2.7 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil, 0.5 million tonnes of biomass and other fuels, and 2.4 million cubic metres of natural gas.
Over 60 billion cubic metres of cooling water from the Forth Estuary has passed through the station.
Longannet Power Station was the third largest coal-fired power plant in Europe, and the second largest in the UK.
The main site covers an area of 89 hectares (220 acres). It has four 600 megawatt (MW) turbine-generators. The plant was originally commissioned and opened between 1969 and 1973.
The station used a range of coal from around the world including Scottish open-cast coal
Typically Longannet required approximately 4 million tonnes of coal per year.