Rockport Power Plant
The Rockport Power Plant is located on US-231 along the north bank of the Ohio River near Rockport, Indiana. The power plant is known for having some of the tallest smokestacks of any U.S. power plant, at a height of 1,038 feet. The smokestack and the pair of cooling towers can be seen on the horizon from up to 45 miles away. The plant, also known as the Rockport Generating Station (RGS), is owned and operated by a division of American Electric Power, Indiana Michigan Power. At one time, a mock facility was open to the public that showed how electricity at the plant was produced.
Electricity at the plant is generated through two non-cyclonic Babcock & Wilcox units, each with an output of 1,300 megawatts of electricity. Unit 1 began operating in 1984, and Unit 2 began in 1989. The units are identical and are fueled by coal, delivered to the station via river barges. Once on land, the coal is run through a 7-mile stretch of conveyor belts and 14 transfer stations before reaching the power plant. The Rockport Plant uses over 10 million tons of coal each year.
Construction of the power plant was started in 1978. The units were the fifth and sixth 1,300-megawatt units to be constructed by American Electric Power. As of 2009, Unit 1 has generated over 200 million MWh of electricity, and Unit 2 has generated over 1.8 million MWh of electricity. The average amount of electricity generated per year, combined, is 1.75 million MWh.
The Rockport Generating Station has won a number of awards in the power-generating industry. The latest award is Large Plant of the Year 2009, given out by the Powder River Basin Coal Users’ Group. The award was given for innovation, best practices, and best use of technology. Sadly, the award comes on the heels of coal dust explosion at the plant that killed one worker. Since then, the Rockport Plant has implemented several improvements for the safety of the workers. At one time, the plant had the worst safety record of any plant owned by American Electric power.
The Rockport Station also produces a significant amount of harmful emissions. In 2006, these emissions had the following totals: 20.2 million tons of carbon dioxide; 83,500 tons of sulfur oxide; 28,100 tons of nitrogen oxide; and 1,200 pounds of mercury. In terms of solid coal combustion waste, Rockport is ranked number 87 out of the 100 most polluting coal plants.
In addition to toxic emissions, the Rockport Power Plant may also have presented dangers to its employees and their families in terms of asbestos exposure. Many power plants built around the same time as Rockport contained the mineral in insulating materials, and when these materials begin to break down, they release deadly fibers into the air, where they can be breathed in and cause a number of asbestos-related diseases.