Didcot Power Station refers to a combined coal and oil power plant (Didcot A Power Station) and a natural-gas power plant (Didcot B Power Station) that supply the National Grid. They are situated immediately adjoining one another in the civil parish of Sutton Courtenay, next to the town of Didcot in Oxfordshire (formerly in Berkshire), in the UK. The combined power stations feature a chimney which is one of the taller structures in the UK, and six hyperbolic cooling towers, which can be seen from much of the surrounding landscape.

Didcot A

Didcot A Power Station is acoal and gas fired power station, designed by architect Frederick Gibberd. A vote was held in Didcot and surrounding villages on whether the power station should be built. There was strong opposition from Sutton Courtenay but the yes vote was carried, due to the number of jobs that would be created in the area. Building was started on the 2,000 MWe power station for the CEGB during 1964, and was completed in 1968 at a cost of £104m, with up to 2400 workers being employed at peak times. It is located on a 300 acres (1.2 km2) site formerly part of the Ministry of Defence Central Ordnance Depot. The main chimney is 650 ft (200 m) tall with the six cooling towers 325 ft (99 m) each. The station uses four 500MWe generating units. In 2003 Didcot A burnt 3.7Mt of coal.

The station burns mostly pulverised coal, but also co-fires with natural gas. Didcot was the first large power station to be converted to have this function. In addition, a small amount of biomass, such as sawdust, is now burnt at the plant. This was introduced to try to depend more on renewable sources following the introduction of the Kyoto Protocol and, in April 2002, the Renewables Obligation. It is hoped that biomass could replace 2% of coal burnt. In 1996 and 1997, Thales UK was awarded contracts by Innogy (now npower) to implement the APMS supervisory and control system on all of the four units, then allowing to have optimised emissions monitoring and reporting.Between 2005 and 2007 Didcot installed overfire air systems on the four boilers to reduce emissions of Nitrous Oxide.This ensured compliance with the Large Combustion Plant Directive.

Some ash from Didcot A is used to manufacture building blocks at a factory on the adjacent Milton Park and transported to Thatcham (near Newbury, Berkshire) for the manufacture of Thermalite aerated breeze blocks using both decarbonized fly and raw ash, but most is mixed with water and pumped via a pipeline to former quarries in Radley.

Environmental protests

On the morning of Thursday 2 November 2006, 30 Greenpeace volunteers invaded the power station. One group chained themselves to a broken coal-carrying conveyor belt. A second group scaled the 200 metre high chimney, and set up a 'climate camp'. They proceeded to paint "Blair's Legacy" on the side of the chimney overlooking the town. Greenpeace claim Didcot Power Station is the second most polluting in Britain after Drax in Yorkshire, whilst Friends of the Earth describe it as the ninth worst in the UK.

A similar protest occurred early on 26 October 2009, when nine climate change protesters climbed the chimney, and eleven chained themselves to the coal delivery conveyors; the latter group were cut free by police after five hours, but the former waited until 28 October before coming down again — all twenty were arrested, and power supplies continued uninterrupted. The power station was installing improved security fencing at the time.

Didcot A has opted out of the Large Combustion Plants Directive which means it will only be allowed to run for up to 20,000 hours after 1 January 2008 and must close by 31 December 2015. The decision was made not to install Flue Gas Desulphurisation equipment which would have allowed continued generation. After high generation levels in 2008, the amount of generation has since reduced significantly and it is unlikely that the running hours will be used before the station has to close.

However, studies are continuing, and there is a possibility that Didcot A might be modernised with new super-clean coal burning capabilities; RWE are partly involved in this study.

Didcot B
History

Didcot B is the newer sibling initially owned by National Power, constructed from 1994-7 by Siemens and Atlantic Projects, and uses a (CCGT) type power plant to generate up to 1,460MWe of electricity. It opened in July 1997. There has been some controversy locally that the access for the site was originally agreed to be via the site entrance for Didcot A on Basil Hill Road', however the 'temporary' access using the former National Grid stores access road is still in use.

Specification

It consists of two 680MWe modules, each with two 230MW SGT5-4000F (former V94.3A) Siemens gas turbines and two heat recovery steam generators, built by International Combustion (since 1997 known as ABB Combustion Services Ltd), and a steam turbine.

Ownership

Following privatisation of the CEGB in the early 1990s, Didcot A passed into the control of what became National Power, who also started construction of Didcot B. Successive demergers and mergers have meant the site passed through Innogy (in 2001) and now by npower (UK).

Tours

Tours of Didcot A are available and are free for educational institutions and community groups. Tours last 1.5 or 2 hours for the junior tour and adult tour respectively.

Architectural reception
  • It was voted Britain's third worst eyesore in 2003 by Country Life readers, although Didcot A won architectural awards for how well it blended into the landscape, following its construction. Radio Oxford received votes for the station when they conducted a survey of the worst building in Oxfordshire, with some listeners referring to it as looking like somewhere up north.
  • British poet Kit Wright has written an "Ode to Didcot Power Station" using a parodic style akin to that of the early romantic poets.

Media

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Building Activity

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