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Page last updated at 09:21 GMT, Wednesday, 29 September 2010 10:21 UK
Didcot Power Station celebrates 40th birthday
Didcot cooling tower construction
Construction on the cooling towers began in the Sixties

"The towers were mentioned in Bill Bryson's books and have been admired by many.

"Of course there are also those who see them as a blot on the Oxfordshire landscape."

So said Jim Haggan, station manager at Didcot Power Station, summing up the divide in public opinion on one of Oxfordshire's most famous landmarks.

But it has provided a vital role in the county's economy ever since it began generating electricity.

Didcot Power Station
Commercial operation at Didcot began in September 1970

'Workhorse'

The power station's six 375ft (114.3m) high cooling towers have been a dominant feature of the skyline since September 1970 when Didcot A's boilers began burning coal.

It has since been converted to a dual-fired station, with three of its four boilers also able to burn natural gas.

All four also have the ability to burn biomass fuels such as sawdust and woodchip.

In the 1990s a gas fired station, Didcot B, was added to the complex.

Together, Didcot A and B generate enough electricity to meet the needs of two million people.

"It has put millions of pounds into the economy of Oxfordshire and provided employment for thousands of people over the past 40 years," Mr Haggan said.

"What everyone should recognise is that the electricity produced at Didcot has been vital for the UK economy and the 40th birthday is a good opportunity to salute this marvellous workhorse and all those who have been part of its story."

Despite the celebrations the station approaches the end of an era.

Didcot A is to close by December 2015 under the European Union Large Combustion Plant Directive legislation.

By then it will have been half a century since work first began on this sometimes controversial Oxfordshire landmark...

Timeline

Boiler house under construction
The boiler house was part of the massive construction project

1964 Building starts for the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB). Joe Haynes is the station superintendent

1970 Didcot A begins commercial operation

1977 Norman Holland becomes station manager

1980 Coal Plant conveyor changes

1983 Commissioning of Radley scheme

Guides
A large number of jobs were created in the area when the station was built

1985 Miners' strike

1989 Jim Twomey becomes station manager

1990 After CEGB privatisation ownership passes to National Power. Precipitator upgrade to lower dust emissions

1994 Construction started on Didcot B, a gas fired station. Bob Pritchard becomes station manager

1995 Rospa Presidents Award

1996 AMPS installed for plant control. Conversion of three units to run on gas (dual firing capability). Dave Bramley becomes station manager

1997 Didcot B power station begins commercial operation

Didcot Power Station paintings
The landmark has inspired paintings, such as these works by Matt Coburn

1999 Kevin Nix takes over as temporary station manager, succeeded by Dave Churton

2000 Ownership passes to Innogy. Investors In People Award

2001 John Rainford becomes station manager

2002 BBOWT Sutton Courtenay Environment Education Centre opens. Ownership passes to Npower (UK) after acquisition of Innogy by RWE

2003 Voted Britain's third worst eyesore

2005 Overfired air method introduced to lower Nitrous Oxide emissions. STUK Ash Beneficiation Plant installed

Staff at Didcot Power Station
The current staff at the power station will celebrate its 40th anniversary

2006 Renewable biomass co-firing facility opens. Greenpeace volunteers invade station and chain themselves to equipment

2007 Business in the Community 'Big Tick' Award for education programme. Listed on the WWF's 'Dirty Thirty' report.

2008 Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) is introduced. Didcot A opts out - will operate for up to 20,000 hours but must close at end of 2015

2009 Protestors climb chimney and stay there for two days

2010 Investors In People Bronze Award. Jim Haggan becomes station manager

2015 Didcot A set to close




SEE ALSO
Award for power protest policeman
26 May 10 |  Oxfordshire
Protester is guilty of trespass
14 May 10 |  Oxfordshire
Didcot protesters admit trespass
01 Feb 10 |  Oxfordshire
Power station tower protest ends
28 Oct 09 |  Oxfordshire
The power and protests at Didcot
28 Oct 09 |  People & Places
How water helps light our homes
10 Feb 09 |  Business
Contractors end unofficial strike
03 Feb 09 |  Oxfordshire
Ash will not be dumped into lakes
17 Dec 08 |  Oxfordshire
Illuminating incinerator protest
14 Oct 08 |  Oxfordshire
Power station starts 60m upgrade
11 Sep 08 |  Oxfordshire
Fire controlled at power station
18 May 07 |  Oxfordshire
Power station on 'dirty 30' list
10 May 07 |  Oxfordshire

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