Three Sisters 'totally silent'

Units 1, 2, and 3, are online at the Navajo Generating Station in LeChee, Arizona, at 8:08 a.m. on Feb. 5, 2019, 286 days later, the 2,250-megawatt coal-fired power plant shut down all three units. Photo by Bob Hembree/Lake Powell Chronicle.

Navajo Generating Station closes after 45 years

By Shayne Jones | NGS maintenance manager
Special to the Chronicle

The Three Sisters of Industrial Might are generating no more. They are now totally silent. The behemoth dragline which removed millions of tons of coal has been shuttered for months. The clatter of BM&LP rail cars rolling along the track has been inaudible for weeks. The hum of the belts carrying black fuel to the fire are noiseless. The drone and thumping of the pulverizers can no longer be heard or felt. The FD & PA fans that you could feel in your bones when next to them are motionless.

Three turbine generators sit idle and quiet. The DCS screens in the control rooms no longer display operating systems of a live power plant. The cooling tower plumes which in winter created their own clouds and sometimes weather pattern will soon be invisible. The steady hum that can be heard for miles on a calm day is now as quiet as a mouse. The plumes from the stacks which could be seen for miles on your approach to Page have vanished forever. The ERV that blew at 12:09 p.m. on Monday will never blow again. I only wish I was better prepared to capture and share it as a sound clip or better yet a video in this letter. I am sure it will be on social media.

The corona discharge or hum you hear from the 500kv lines to the transmission yard has been silenced. There is an eerie presence about NGS now. What was noisy is now quiet. What was hot is now cold. To many of us who cared for this machine for years, it just doesn’t seem right.

What was for 45 years is now only a few short months away from being cleared from the horizon. For some this is a victory. Some may not care. They are indifferent to NGS and what she has been for nearly half a century. Yet, for most of us, it is with sorrow that we hear the silence. The chatter that once filled the lunch rooms, control rooms and crew meeting areas has ended. There are no more potlucks, no more burrito lady, the last of countless pancake breakfasts was served on November 7. There are no more safety celebrations. So many things that have become routine and, for some, habit will not be happening anymore. Lunch boxes and coolers that have been faithfully prepared will no longer be bound for NGS.

The drive that was made to and from NGS will now be to and from Santan, Gila River, Agua Fria, Mesquite, Desert Basin, MCM, Substation Maintenance, CGS and other SRP locations where those carrying on their career with SRP have landed. Some have chosen to leave SRP and remain in the area. For others, it will be the new adventures of retirement. Life will go on for all of us. It will just be different without the Three Sisters of Industrial Might sitting on the eastern horizon.

The comfort and security she once provided for all of us and millions of others now falls to the sun, wind and gas turbines to provide. Somehow they are just not as magnificent, no matter how you look at them. She will be missed but she will certainly never be forgotten. I would like to say thanks to all those I have worked with over the years. Having been here for two thirds of my life I have been influenced and inspired by many of you. You are all a wonderful group of folks. It doesn’t matter which department or group you were with, NGS was truly a team, a team of talented and concerned people who not only did their jobs but believed in what they were doing. Few, if any, power plants can compare. Great things were done every day by all of you. You can certainly stand proud.

It has been a privilege to have worked with you all. Thank you all, my friends, for all you did throughout the 45 years to help the sisters finish strong!