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Dead fish did not cause Powerton shutdown

August 08, 2012 at 06:44 AM

Peoria Journal Star

Editor’s note: An Associated Press story on fish kills in the Midwest said, “So many fish died in one Illinois lake that the carcasses clogged an intake screen near a power plant, lowering water levels to the point that the station had to shut down one of its generators.” Midwest Generation spokesman Doug McFarlan said high water temperatures in the lake were the main cause. A link to the original story is below.

PEKIN — The complications from the severe heat and drought in central Illinois have manifested in myriad ways throughout the summer, even extending to large power plants.

Recent reports surfaced that Midwest Generation’s Powerton electric plant shut down operations temporarily in July after an overabundance of dead fish from Powerton Lake clogged an intake screen that extracts the fish. Those reports are not necessarily accurate.

“I’ve been hearing people say that the plant shut down completely for a couple days because of dead fish,” said Doug McFarlan, spokesman for Midwest Generation, on Tuesday. “That’s not true.”

The Powerton plant contains two power generators, one of which was placed offline from 4 p.m. July 7 to 10 a.m. July 10, according to Powerton plant station director Jeff Kickert. Low water levels at Powerton Lake caused an influx of dead fish, but the lake’s role as a cooling pond for the plant was a more substantive cause of the generator shut down.

“There was some pluggage from the fish,” Kickert said. “That wasn’t the main reason we placed a generator offline.”

The Powerton Lake water is channeled to cool the heat exchanges during the coal burning process. The heat wave that enveloped the Midwest in early July led to hot water from the lake overheating bearings and creating turbine inefficiencies during energy production, Kickert said.

The initial decision was to pare down one generator’s production for a few hours, he said, and observe the reaction. Eventually, the generator was placed offline for some unrelated maintenance that is routinely completed later in the year.

The two-day hiatus allowed for a minor cleanup of the dead fish accumulation and a chance for the lake water to cool after some successive 100-degree days, Kickert said.

McFarlan insisted that the overheated system was not a major problem, as the generator only needed to be shut down for a few hours to remedy the situation before Kickert deemed it a suitable time for maintenance.

“It didn’t have any operational impact on us,” McFarlan said.

The Powerton plant has not experienced any difficulties since the July incident, Kickert said, and machine production has not wavered outside of the usual summertime heat hassles - albeit, a little more severe this year.

“Every summer there’s always a few percent de-ratings (at an energy plant),” Kickert said. “With a summer as hot as this one, there’s a few more percents de-rated.”

Thomas Bruch can be reached at 686-3181 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him on Twitter @ThomasBruch.

Related stories

Thousands of fish die as Midwest streams heat up

About 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon were killed in Iowa last week as water temperatures reached 97 degrees. Nebraska fishery officials said they've seen thousands of dead sturgeon, catfish, carp, and other species in the Lower Platte River, including the endangered pallid sturgeon. And biologists in Illinois said the hot weather has killed tens of thousands of large- and smallmouth bass and channel catfish and is threatening the population of the greater redhorse fish, a state-endangered species.

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