The coal-fired, steam-electric power plant known as the Hayden Generating Station got underway with construction on Unit 1 generator in 1962. By 1965, it was operating. Work started on Unit 2 in 1972 and it was completed and online by 1976. With the two units, the plant is able to produce 446 megawatts. Unit 1 can produce 184megawatts, while Unit 2 produces 262 megawatts. Peabody Coal’s Twenty Mile Mine supplies the plant with a low-sulfur coal for fuel.
Three corporations own the Hayden Generating Station, with Xcel Energy owning the highest share, followed by Salt River Project of Phoenix, Arizona, and PacificCorp of Portland, Oregon. Xcel Energy oversees the day-to-day operation of the station.
Coal is burned at coal-fired plants to provide heat to make steam that turns the turbines. Several different waste products are produced by burning coal. This waste is called “fouling” and “slagging” in the industry. At the Hayden Generating Station, water is not discharged offsite, and this mitigates the environmental risks. This makes the Hayden plant one of the cleanest coal-burning facilities in the country.
To accomplish this, the Hayden Plant controls emissions in three different ways: low nitrogen oxide burners, dry scrubbing systems and baghouses. Large systems that resemble vacuum cleaners filter emissions caused by the burning coal, and remove 99 percent of the harmful particles from the air, while dry scrubbing and baghousing remove a large portion of nitrogen oxide and acid gasses from emissions. As a result, the Clean Air Task Force claims that an average of only 6 deaths occur each year due to fine particle pollution.
Standard practice for decades in mills, factories, power plants and other worksites was the use of a naturally occurring mineral with strong insulating properties called asbestos. It was lauded for its ability to protect machines from heat and chemicals. Most of the heat-generating machinery and equipment inside power plants were once lined with asbestos. Ironically, exposure to asbestos was eventually found to lead to a particularly deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma. The fibrous mineral releases tiny particles into the air, and when they are inhaled they embed in the lining of the lungs, stomach or heart, where they cause cancerous tumors.
Until the 1970s, power plant workers were among those who worked in air contaminated with asbestos dust without protective equipment, putting them at risk for developing mesothelioma from inhaling the particles. These fibers also cling to clothing, and when carried into the home, put the families of these workers in danger as well.