A major coal-fired power station, Widows Creek Fossil Plant provided electricity to northeast Alabama for more than 60 years. Its 8 units could generate a total of 9 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. The plant also boasted one of the world’s tallest chimneys at 1,001 feet (305 meters).
Due to a 2011 compliance agreement with the EPA, TVA began shutting down operations at Widows Creek in 2013. In September 2015, the plant received its last load of coal and the site officially retired the following month.
Also in 2015, Google announced it would invest $600 million to redevelop the site to operate as a data center. Data centers power the internet, and require a continual source of electricity. Google plans utilize as much of the existing infrastructure as possible. Good power lines will carry renewable energy and fiber optic cable can be run in existing conduit buried along rail lines. And where the plant used water to generate electricity, Google will use that water to cool the machines. It will be interesting to see how Google transforms the site in the years to come.
The stacks at Widows Creek employ 10 FTB 205 utility tower lights to alert pilots of the old coal plant’s presence.
Image by TVA Web Team (Widows_Creek_Fossil_Plant-7) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons