Monday, April 22, 2024

The last days of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station

Jillian Ambrose for the Guardian about the plans to close Britain's last coal-fired power station, Ratrcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire:

When Ratcliffe was opened in 1968 by the Central Electricity Generating Board, the very first series of Dad’s Army was about to be broadcast, the Beatles were topping the charts and coal power was in its heyday.

Coal-fired stations mushroomed through Britain’s mining heartlands in the late 1960s and 1970s to provide baseload power for Britain’s electricity network. The 2,000-mega­watt Ratcliffe broke up the skyline for drivers on the new M1 motorway, and provided power to heat and light 2m homes.

It was built in an area rich in coal, where collieries employing tens of thousands of miners dotted the landscape. By the early 1980s, Ratcliffe was burning 65% of south Nottinghamshire’s coal output.

The new power stations were built at speed. At the time, their scale and engineering complexity were unprecedented, and their impact on the climate unforeseen.

When Ratcliffe generates its last megawatts this year, it will represent the final dismantling of Britain’s coal heritage and end almost 150 years of coal-powered economic growth.

“It’s the end of the first Industrial Revolution, really,” says engineering manager Nigel Bates. He first stepped on to the Ratcliffe site more than 40 years ago, as a 16-year-old mechanical apprentice with a handful of O-levels. “Coal started it all, and soon we’re going to end it,” he says.

I'll miss the giant cooling towers that became an important part of the landscape of postwar Britain. They were at their most dominant in the Trent Valley.

My photo shows the towers of Ratcliffe-on-Soar from the place where the Erewash Canal joins the River Trent.


Anonymous said...

As a child I often went to Mr Morley's farm, Redhill Farm, the site of the power station. We swam in the ford on the Soar and you could find 4 leaf clovers on the farm track. The whole area is unrecognisable now, but Ratcliffe's ancient church, where Babingtons and Sacheverells lie under their alabaster slabs, remains.

Andrew Kitching said...

Dad worked at West Burton- 2000MW- and all down the Trent there were these giant power stations, with the 'merry-go-round' coal trains from the collieries. What gives us the stable caseload now? ageing nuclear stations. The next government is going to have to get a move on with energy security.

Andrew Kitching said...

Base load!

Tom Barney said...

'They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
- An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,
And someone running up to bowl...'