Goodbye to Longannet power station

Goodbye Longannet, you and the workers employed there, served Scotland well.

The coal-fired power station at Longannet in Fife was switched off yesterday, bringing to a close more than 45 years of electricity generation.

More than 177 million tons of coal was used during its operating lifetime. Something our esteemed Editor was more familiar with than most. There was more than one occasion when he had to be dragged out of the coal sheds, fascinated with the coal trains as they unloaded at the site!

The plant also consumed 2.7 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 2.4 million cubic metres of natural gas. Some 60 billion cubic metres of cooling water from the Firth of Forth also passed through the power station.

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It was the largest power station in Europe when it went online in 1970. It was really several power stations, as the units inside the generating hall could be switched on and off separately, making it a very flexible power station. It was capable of producing 2,400MW of electricity for the national grid and powering over two million homes each year. The Scotsman has a nice collection of historical photos of the plant.

For most of its lifetime it was the balancing provision, capable of plugging the gap between the baseload generation of nuclear power and the increasing use of intermittent renewable technologies. Your kettle went on at half time during the big football matches, largely thanks to Longannet.

Industrial relations at the plant were generally good and its partnership model of industrial relations was ahead of its time. A model now being promoted by the Fair Work Convention operated here for many years.

Scottish Power blames the closure on transmission charges. That is largely correct, although there are other factors, as we covered at the time the decision was made to close.

The downside of the plant was its carbon emissions. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) could have addressed this. However, successive governments dithered over the pilot schemes and the Tories cut the budget completely last year.

Despite Longannet’s planned 25 year lifetime, it continued to serve Scotland for much longer. It could have done more. So a sad day for those who worked there and scary times ahead for energy security in Scotland as we import more power from England to plug the gap.

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