It took just a few seconds for what was once considered the largest coal-fired generating station in North American to come down.
The powerhouse at the former Nanticoke Generating Station was demolished just after 8 a.m. on Aug. 22.
Media arrived at 5 a.m. to prepare for the blast to take place at 8 a.m. They gathered in a tent to wait for the five-minute warning and the 10-second countdown signals.
A collection of about 20 media representatives and Ontario Power Generation officials watched on from the restricted safe viewing area on the Nanticoke site. After the demolition the group of onlookers were in almost complete silence watching in awe as the smoke cleared to reveal the spot where the buildings stood moments earlier.
Smiles could be seen on the officials’ faces once the site was cleared and they could tell that the demolition had been completed correctly and safely.
Comments on social media posts about the demolition mentioned people could hear and feel the commotion as far as Port Rowan.
The generating station, which at one point employed more than 600 staff, began its construction in 1967 and was completed in 1978.
The plant was decommissioned in 2013 as part of an Ontario government’s Green Energy Plan to no longer burn coal to create electricity.
In addition to being the largest power generator, it was also the biggest greenhouse gas polluter in Canada.
It was also a big employer in the area, with more than 600 workers at its peak.
Nanticoke’s last piece of coal was burned on Dec. 31, 2013. The smokestacks that were on the site were demolished in February 2018.
Delsan-AIM, the same contractor that took down the smokestacks, was on site to demolish the powerhouse last Thursday. They have been preparing the buildings for a year and a half, removing interior, including hundreds of truckloads of asbestos.
The former coal yard beside the powerhouse is now housing a solar farm with 200,000 panels. The field was completed and went online on March 29, 2019.
“It’s kind of symbolic going from coal to solar,” Neal Kelly, director of media, issues, and information management at Ontario Power Generation, said at the site about an hour before the demolition. “It’s the end of an era for coal but the beginning of a new era for renewable generation on the site.”
In 2016 OPG, Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, were selected by the Independent Electricity System Operator to develop a solar facility.
“The closure of Nanticoke Generating Station remains one of North America’s single largest climate change initiatives,” said Mike Martelli, OPG President of Renewable Generation said in a press release. “Building and sustaining a clean, low cost electricity system is fundamental to a healthy environment and a strong, low-carbon economy. I want to thank all of the employees that contributed to the legacy of a high performing station and the community for their decades of support and ensure residents that Nanticoke Solar is a continuation of OPG’s rich legacy of generating electricity in their backyard.”
The powerhouse was 491,400 square feet, or more than 8.5 football fields in size.
“This has been a long time coming. Everybody knew back in the early 2000s that we would get to this day,“ said Kelly. “OPG will continue to own this land here, we’ve been in this community for about 50 years, we’re not going anywhere, we’ll see what the future brings.“