City of Tacoma Power Plant

The retrofit of the Tacoma Power Plant was a project to revamp a power plant located in Tacoma, Washington. The plan was to refit the plant with a fifty-megawatt boiler that had refuse-derived fuel (RDF) burning capabilities. The Tacoma facility burns 350 tons of waste each day from the City of Tacoma. The original power plant was built in 1931 and burned coal to generate a maximum of 25MW.   The retrofit project was undertaken by Tacoma Public Utilities in 1988 and was completed in the autumn of 1989. The project included the reconditioning of a standard fifty-megawatt facility situated in Tacoma's tideflats industrial region, and required the inclusion of 2 pulverized electrical generating units which were coal-fueled. Each one had the capacity to generate 25 megawatts of electricity. The combustion systems of these boilers were internal in their design, but were converted to an external fluid bed combustion technology that increased their coal burning efficiency and also enabled them to burn wood and additional types of refuse. The generating turbines were also reconditioned, and the installation of new equipment for fuel handling and transport were added. Lastly, fans, baghouses, super heaters and economizers were installed. Energy Products of Idaho (EPI) was selected to oversee all facets of the project. After the project was completed in 1989, EPI received Power Magazine's "Powerplant of the Year" award. Because of its fire resistant abilities, asbestos was often utilized in American work sites such as the Tacoma Power Plant. Although the use of asbestos was intended to prevent harm, unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. Exposure to asbestos in the workplace has caused untold numbers of individuals to become seriously ill with diseases such as cancer of the lungs and pleural plaques. Asbestos is a mineral that has the ability to infiltrate the internal organs and cause irreversible damage. The most deadly asbestos-related disease is called mesothelioma, which is cancer of the cell linings of the pleural or abdominal cavities and is usually fatal. State and Federal regulators now widely acknowledge the risks of exposure to asbestos, and various laws are in place to provide protection for those who work near or with this toxic mineral. Those who worked on job sites like the Tacoma Power Plant prior to the regulation of asbestos sometimes spent their work hours in areas where asbestos microfibers were abundant, and usually were not offered much information regarding the dangers of asbestos. Additionally, workers often carried the fibers home to their families on their hair and clothes, potentially placing their loved ones at risk. References: EPI Energy Systems IEA Bioenergy