Edgewater Generating Station
Located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the Edgewater Generating Station is an electricity production plant operated by Alliant Energy. Originally opened in 1931, Edgewater is one of the oldest continuously operational electrical generating stations in Wisconsin. Ownership was originally split between Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin Power and Light (75%) and We Energies (25%), but We Energies recently sold its share back to WP&L.
The first two boiler units that were commissioned in the early 1930s are now retired and the three remaining units are coal-fired boilers that produce a total of about 740 megawatts when operating at maximum capacity. The coal used for the burners was once a 50/50 mix of West Virginia and Illinois ore, but now is shipped to the plant by rail from the Powder River Basin area of Wyoming. Two of the three units at the power station have cyclone boilers while Unit #5, which produces the most electricity, is a pulverized dry bottom boiler system.
Waste coal is deposited at a number of ponds and slag pools near the site. Because of the relatively old age of the facility a number of more recent steps have been taken to reduce emissions from the power station, namely heavy metals, nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide. In March 2011, We Energies sold its stake in the plant to WP&L for $38 million. This sale was a result of We Energies’ concerns about the high cost it was about to pay for installing the modern scrubber systems needed to capture heavy metals and other particulates emitted with the flue gases. Because of this recent sale, the scrubber system installation is behind schedule.
The Edgewater Generating Station is one of the older power plants in the region and it was likely one of many such facilities that used asbestos as an insulating material. The fibers of naturally occurring asbestos are very heat resistant and have been used to make protective clothing, heat shield panels and coatings for hot steam pipes. In power generating stations the building’s inner walls become weaker and degrade over the years; eventually asbestos fibers are released into the air and can be inhaled by plant employees.
By the 1980s the public became aware that asbestos inhalation was linked to a number of illnesses. Asbestosis, certain benign growths and the deadly mesothelioma are examples of health disorders caused by asbestos. Disease symptoms often do not show for 20 years or more, and past employees at the Edgewater Generating Station may be subject to asbestos complications in the future.