Valley Power Plant

Valley Power Plant is a coal based cogeneration electrical plant located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and is the property of We Energies. The power plant is located adjacent to downtown Milwaukee and occupies 22 acres of land between the south Menomonee Canal and the Menomonee River. It has been in service since its completion in 1968, which was achieved after the initial cost of $41 million.

The first of the facility’s two steam units (each unit having two boilers) was activated in 1968, and the other in 1969. There is also a diesel generator on standby in the event of an emergency.   Each boiler stands 14 stories tall. The steam they produce reaches temperatures of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, and a pressure of 1,523 pounds per square inch. With three of the four boiler units in service at any time, the facility’s Steam-Heating capacity can reach 1.25 million pounds of steam per hour.   The boiler units produce 140 megawatts each for a net total of 280 megawatts. The plant’s generator reaches 13,800 volts, with the Step-Up Transformer achieving 138,000. These components provide power to 450 customers on a daily basis as of February 2010.

As a cogeneration facility, Valley Power Plant requires 2,200 tons of coal per day to sustain its electrical output. To maintain its intake, the station relies on self-unloading coal boats and barges to transport its fuel. This coal is accumulated on either a 75,000-ton capacity coal pile or in one of eight 425-ton capacity coal silos within the building itself. The coal is crushed in one of eight mechanical pulverizers, which can process up to 16 tons of coal per hour. This is done to prepare its use as fuel by increasing the burnable surface area.

Several systems are in place to keep the plant safe and functional. 110,800 gallons of river water are used every minute to convert exhaust steam from the turbines back into water for quick reuse and to keep the system cool before cycling it back into the Menomonee. 99.9% of fly ash from the coal is collected via filter bags, with the remainder removed via hydraulic system.  These systems are all monitored and maintained via a single control room, where one operator can control the major power plant and district steam system.
Unfortunately, the Valley Power Plant was built during a time when asbestos was extremely popular as an insulating material.  Because power plants generate large amounts of heat in addition to electricity, a great deal of insulation is necessary to keep the machinery running smoothly, and for many of these plants built in the 1960s and 1970s, the answer to this problem was asbestos.  However, it is now widely known that asbestos is a carcinogen that can continue to affect the body long after exposure has ceased.