Power plant turns 25
Dave Longwell was manning the controls 25 years ago when a turbine at the Craig Station Power Plant started smoking. It happened just as a plant executive was extolling the virtues of the best system ever built to a crowd attending its grand opening.
He was part of a frantic crew working to solve the problem as tour after tour came through to see the second unit of the biggest coal-fired power plant in the state come online.
Today, he’s one of more than 300 workers who operate the 1,246-megawatt electricity generating station, which celebrated its 25th year of operation with a luncheon and gathering Wednesday.
“These are my co-workers, and they are the most talented group of people I could imagine,” Plant Manager James McNicol said.
There are about 40 people still working at the power plant who were there when it opened.
Longwell is one. He started working at the Craig Station in 1977 during the construction phase. He had been working at the Hayden Station.
Longwell started as an equipment operator and has worked in several other positions on his way to his current post as the support services superintendent.
“It’s not quite the top, but it’s close enough,” he said.
Longwell said he likes his job and envisions himself staying until he retires, watching the others who started at the same time as he did “age gracefully.”
“I like learning things, and it seems every day there’s something to learn,” he said. “I like the mental challenge.”
Units 1 and 2 of the power plant are part of the Yampa Project, owned by Tri-State Generation and Transmission and four other utility providers. They were put into operation in 1979 and 1980. The third unit, owned solely by Tri-State, was added in 1984.
“It’s a very important event to celebrate 25 years of efficient operation — or reliable operation,” Tri-State CEO J.M. Shafer said. “It’s no secret that Craig is an important resource to Tri-State. We depend on it real heavily.”
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