Tucson Electric Power (TEP) has begun tearing down the last remnants of coal operations at its largest local power plant.
TEP stopped burning coal at the H. Wilson Sundt Generating Station on East Irvington Road in 2015 as part of a long-term plan to build a cleaner, more diverse energy portfolio. The plant now runs exclusively on natural gas, and two older units have been replaced by new, more efficient reciprocating engines that support increased use of renewable resources.
This month, crews started removing obsolete coal-handling facilities. Demolition continues this week on a 130-foot-tall, metal-sided “coal barn” along the southern edge of TEP’s Irvington Campus near Interstate 10.
The structure was built after TEP was ordered by the Department of Energy in 1982 to start burning coal at the gas-fired plant. The order was issued pursuant to the Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act of 1978, which sought to preserve domestic supplies of natural gas during the energy crisis. TEP converted just one of four units at the plant to burn coal before the law was repealed in 1987.
Coal stored in the giant barn was fed into Unit 4’s boilers through an elaborate conveyor system. Excavator-mounted jackhammers and demolition shears will be used to tear down the barn, a visible landmark for commuters along Interstate 10.
Additional coal handling facilities will be removed, including a facility used to unload coal-laden railroad cars. In all, 5,000 cubic yards of dirt will be moved, along with 2,000 cubic yards of concrete and 1,000 tons of steel. The metal will be recycled.
The coal barn’s demolition represents a milestone on TEP’s path to a sustainable energy future. The company recently announced the gradual elimination of coal-fired power as part of its plan to provide 70 percent of its power from wind and solar resources and reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2035.
TEP provides safe, reliable electric service to approximately 432,000 customers in Southern Arizona. For more information, visit tep.com. TEP and its parent company, UNS Energy, are subsidiaries of Fortis Inc., which owns utilities that serve more than 3 million customers across Canada and in the United States and the Caribbean. For more information, visit fortisinc.com.