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The Ohio Edison power plant was located along the Mad River and the National Road in Springfield, Ohio, and was demolished in 2010.

History

The first power generator in the city was installed by Driscoll Carriage Works in 1883, a location later used by the Springfield Metallic Casket Company.14 The Kinnane-Wren Store installed incandescent lights, and an eight-light system paid for by the businesses illuminated one downtown block. A brick power house was constructed in the following year on North Street between Lowery and Plum streets. This was soon surpassed by a larger power house in 1887, when a former Methodist church building on Washington Street near Center Street was converted into a generating facility.

In 1900, E.S. Kelly organized The Home Lighting, Heating and Power Company, and built a power house on Washington Street between Limestone and Spring streets.14 Five years later, the competing People’s Light, Heat and Power Company purchased the interest of the Springfield Electric Railway Company and erected a power house on Jefferson Street near its competitor. The Springfield Light Heat and Power Company purchased the interest of both companies in September 1908.

The new merged company purchased land at Rockaway and Fisher streets in 1909, relocating boilers from its other locations and adding a 500-kilowatt turbo generator.14 The capacity was expanded in 1910, 1916, 1920 and 1924.

In 1923, the Ohio Edison Company was formed and acquired the Northwestern Ohio Light Company in Urbana and the Marysville Light and Water Company in Marysville. A year later, Ohio Edison merged with Springfield Light Heat and Power Company, and formed plans to construct a new power plant along the Mad River.14

Mad River Plant

The Ohio Edison Mad River Plant opened on October 2, 1927 and was dubbed “The Giant of the Miami Valley.”1 Designed by Springfield architect William K. Shilling, the 51,000 square-foot Mad River plant was constructed at the confluence of Buck Creek and the Mad River.14 15

“Picture, if you can, a column of horses suddenly shot out from the High St. office of The Ohio Edison Co., four horses wide and 6,700 horses long. The work done by this mass of horses, four wide and approximately nine miles long, would represent in the popular mind 36,800 horsepower. This is the capacity of the new 20,000 kilowatt General Electric steam turbine installed in the company’s new Mad River generation station.”
-Springfield Daily News, October 2, 1927 1

The coal arrived on railroad cars and was sent into a crusher, which was then taken via a conveyor to the top of the power plant.14 From there, the coal was dumped into hoppers to pass under powerful magnets to remove bolts and other metal impurities before being crushed to powder and blown into a furnace. Air heated to 700 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve maximum efficiency was shot into the furnace at the same time. Internal furnace temperatures approached 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water for the 70-foot high boilers were taken from the Mad River, which was purified and then heated to 700 degrees Fahrenheit at 400 pounds per square inch.14 Generators added later heated the steam to 900 degrees Fahrenheit and 800 pounds per square inch. The steam from the three boilers were used to drive the turbines to produce electricity.

The turbine was activated by high pressure steam, directed by nozzles against the blades mounted on the turbine shaft which spun at 3,600 revolutions-per-minute, or 825 miles-per-hour.14 Attached to the shaft of the turbine was a rotor spinning at the speed of the turbine. Electricity was produced when the rotor turned inside sets of heavy coils of copper wire, which produced a current that sent electricity out at 12,500 volts to an adjoining substation, where transformers boosted it to 69,000 volts for transmission via power lines.

A condenser, which used untreated water from the Mad River, was taken in to cool the steam back into nearly pure water which was then fed into the boilers.14 This created a downward vacuum that helped maintain the flow in the boiler system. Any emissions rose through a 280-foot stack.15

A 20,000-kilowatt generator was installed in 1939, and another in 1950.14

On May 23, 1973, Ohio Edison was ordered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to cease any air emission at the Mad River facility by June 24, an order that came after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency denied four variances for pollution that were sought by Ohio Edison.7 The state noted that the company failed to submit an approvable compliance schedule to stay within state and federal air regulations. All emission sources, according to the state, must be in compliance by July 1975.

Ohio Edison repeatedly requested a variance to continue to operate the non-compliant boilers until 1978.12

The Mad River plant, which provided power for approximately 33% of Springfield, was supposed to be closed on June 24,12 but variances were granted until 1981.15

Demolition on the Mad River plant began in July 2010 and was completed later in the year at a cost of $3 to $4 million.15 During the demolition process, the tower was toppled – but undetected cracks left the tower falling in the wrong direction.16 The stack, which was expected to fall to the east, crashed to the southeast taking down a building housing backup generators and two 12,500-volt power lines. After the demolition was complete, a few generating units for peak use and a substation were left behind on the 45-acre site.

Rockaway Plant

Ohio Edison operated a steam plant for downtown Springfield that was located on Rockway Street just north of North Street and west of Fountain Avenue.8 It served customers bounded by North Street on the northern edge of downtown, Foster Street to the east, Jefferson Street to the south and Wittenberg Avenue to the west.6 The Rockaway Plant provided steam service to at one point over 240 customers.

Ohio Edison attempted to shut down the steam plant as early October 13, 1970 due to cost and a lack of profit.3 8 9 In November 1971, a Public Utilities Commission hearing was held as a result of a request by Ohio Edison to abandon the Springfield, Akron and Youngstown plants.2 Those talks resumed on December 7. Ohio Edison sought to retire the steam plants by July 1, 1973 due to consistent yearly losses, increased operating costs, and the cost of installing air pollution control equipment. It lost $508,128 from 1965 to 1970. For the 12-month period ending on June 30, 1971, the plant lost $235,000.4 5 The cost to convert the plant to oil-fired burners to comply with air pollution standards developed under the federal Air Quality Act of 1967 would exceed $2,539,000,2 6 13 and would increase the cost of the plant by $57,188 per year.4 In addition, Ohio Edison lost 23% of its steam customers from December 1960 to December 1970, going from 240 to 189, largely because of urban renewal projects.4 The company also stated that its conduits – many of which were constructed of wood, were frequently breaking.6 8 10

Rates would need to be tripled in order to return a 313% in revenues to return a 9% profit on the investment of the new boilers.4 10

The Ohio Edison plant by then still served 189 downtown structures.2

“I hope people recognize that we recognize that these applications do present problems for our customers. As a public utility, we have a moral and legal obligation to serve the people, but at a just and reasonable rate.”
-Ohio Edison President D. Bruce Mansfield 4

The city retained a consultant from Evans and Associates of Cleveland to evaluate the steam plant, and to develop conversion estimates for some of the downtown tenants.2 The goal was to delay the shut down until at least 1978, which would give the city an opportunity to have a downtown renewal program underway and to have a natural gas solution ready. But Columbia Gas of Ohio stated that because of a shortage of natural gas in the area, that no new customers with substantial gas needs would be accepted in the near future.10

Another hearing was held on February 29, 1972, but the need was less urgent since the Public Utilities Commission approved an amendment that extended the steam heat deadline shutdown until July 1, 1975 3 at its February 23 meeting.5 It required a performance bond of $500,000 guaranteeing the Rockaway facility shutdown by the deadline.7 Final approval of that amendment hinged on the granting of a variance from city pollution standards, which were granted due to the scheduled shut down of the steam plant.

On December 14, 1973, the Public Utilities Commission rejected an application by Ohio Edison to abandoned the Rockaway steam plant, but did approve of a 3% rate hike saying that the rate of return for the steam service was insufficient to provide Ohio Edison with proper compensation.11

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