Celebrating 50 Years

I.K.E.C. withstands
changes in technology,
EPA rules and a tornado

The Cold War-era power plant continues
to provide jobs and tax revenue for the area

By Don Ward

(July 2006) – For 50 years, the Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp.’s Clifty Creek power station has operated at a bend in the Ohio River just west of downtown Madison, Ind.

July 2006 Indiana Cover

July 2006 Indiana
Edition Cover

It’s 985-foot twin stacks, which tower over the historic downtown and Clifty Falls State Park, over the years have become perhaps the most familiar artificial landmarks in the valley. The plant, owned and operated by a consortium of about 15 power companies, employs 365 people, ranking as the sixth-largest employer in Jefferson County.
Clifty Creek provides more than $3 million annually in taxes to the county and an annual $23 million payroll for nearly two generations of workers, officials say. Not only has the plant survived years of technological advances and time itself, but it has also weathered the 1974 tornado that struck Madison and, most recently, a series of legal attacks by environmentalists over its aging pollution controls.
Today, Clifty Creek’s turbines continue to hum and its generators continue to churn out 1,302 megawatts of electricity, which is transmitted to its sponsoring companies for their sales to residential, commercial and industrial customers as well as other power companies.
Plant officials marked the 50-year anniversary in mid-May with an open house, allowing visitors to tour the facility and see areas usually off limits to the public.
Meanwhile, in an effort to survive these latest legal challenges and meet future environmental regulations, the company in May announced an ambitious $460 million plan to enhance its pollution controls to successfully meet the ever-tightening federal air quality standards.

Location: Madison, Ind.
Capacity: 1,302 megawatts from six generating units
Stacks: 2 at 985 feet each. Diameter 77 feet at base, 34 feet at top. Built in the late 1970s.
Average annual coal use: 4.5 million tons
Coal yard storage capacity: More than 1 million tons
Average daily coal use: 14,000 tons
Combustion air use: 140,000 pounds per minute
Boiler capacity: 52,000 gallons of water through 150 miles of boiler tubing per unit.
Main steam pressure: 2,000 pounds
Main steam temperature: 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit
Cooling water use: Cycles 1.4 billion gallons of river water through the plant daily.
Employees: 365
Annual payroll: $23 million
Annual taxes paid to local government: (real estate, personal property): More than $3 million

The project calls for installing scrubbers for each of its six 217-megawatt generating units to remove 98 percent or more of the sulfur dioxide, a component of “acid rain,” from the flue gas emissions. Once these new scrubbers are fully operational, estimated to be 2010, the plant should be able to stay within the government-mandated pollution levels until 2018 and beyond, said I.K.E.C. assistant plant manager Cliff Carnes, 44. He is a Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology graduate from Indianapolis who was hired in 1985 as a chemical engineer and later promoted to maintenance superintendent before taking his current position.
Carnes said more controls may be necessary in future years, but by that time, plant officials hope newer technology still being developed will be available then to help offset the cost to install and operate efficiently and profitably.
“The addition of the flue gas desulfurization systems represents a major commitment to environmental quality in southeastern Indiana,” said Ray Wilson, 59, Clifty Creek’s plant manager for the past 14 years. “The project will also produce an economic boost to Jefferson County and the city of Madison in the form of increased county option income taxes.”
In 2002, Clifty Creek installed new Selective Catalytic Reactors, commonly called SCRs, to remove nitrogen oxide from its flue gas emissions. The new pollution controls to be added starting in 2007 will render the current twin stacks obsolete, Carnes said. A new single stack will go up in 2008 to accommodate the new scrubbers. The twin stacks that now stand will remain until future technology is made available to tear them down affordably, Carnes said.
“Using the technology that is out there today, our consultants have estimated it would cost $7 million per stack to take down now,” he said. “That’s just too costly to pursue right now.”
Clifty Creek underwent a similar transition back in the late 1970s when the original three stacks, which stood at only 600-plus feet, were torn down to make way for the current twin towers.
The plant also survived the infamous April 3, 1974, tornado, which roared up the river and tore across the plant’s switchyard, leaving heaps of wrangled metal in its wake. The tornado then slammed into the hillside on its way to the Madison hilltop, where it destroyed Clifty Inn’s lodge and several buildings at Hanover College. Power plant workers, meanwhile, scrambled for shelter in the plant’s bomb shelter, located deep beneath the stacks. The wreckage forced the plant to shut down for nearly six months while repairs were made.

Top Jefferson
County (Ind.) Employers

Rank Employees Company
1. 1,057 King’s Daughters’ Hospital & Health Services
2. 753 Arvin Sango Inc.
3. 672 Grote Industries
4. 465 Madison Precision Products
5. 425 Rotary Lift
6. 365 I.K.E.C. Clifty Creek
7. 223 Rockwell/Reliance Electric
8. 172 Armor Metal
9. 172 Century Tube
10. 96 Siemens U.S. Filter
(As of April 15, 2006) Source: MIDCOR

“It’s really a tribute to the company that this plant can still function as well as it does after 50 years and produce electricity relatively inexpensively. I think it’s a tribute to the ingenuity that went into the design and construction back in those early days,” Wilson said.
Clifty Creek, which reports its earnings to shareholders, reported an income of $26.3 million in 2004.
“With these recent new government regulations coming down, we’ve had to be pro-active to get out ahead of them and put these new controls into place. It will be change, for sure.”

IKEC Shareholders Breakdown
Below is the Ohio Valley
Electric Corp.’s (which owns both
Clifty Creek and Kyger Creek)
shareholder breakdown
of “Sponsoring Companies:”

Percent Company
3.5 Allegheny Energy Inc.
39.17 American Electric Power Co. Inc.
9.0 Buckeye Power Generating, LLC
9.0 Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. (Cinergy)
4.3 Columbus Southern Power & Light Co. (AEP)
4.9 Dayton Power & Light Co.
2.5 Kentucky Utilities Co. (E.ON AG)
5.63 Louisville Gas & Electric Co. (E.ON AG)
16.5 Ohio Edison Co. (FirstEnergy Corp.)
1.5 Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co. (Vectren Corp)
4.0 Toledo Edison Co. (FirstEnergy Corp.)
Source: OVEC/IKEC 2004 Annual Report

Carnes said plant officials have recently entertained city and state officials, including those from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, who operate Clifty Falls State Park. “They were concerned about the location of the new stack and that it might block the view from the newly renovated lodge. But once they realized where the stack is being placed, they were fine with it,” Carnes said.
The new stack will go up immediately east of the current one closest to Hwy. 56 and not far out into the easternmost ash pits, as park officials had thought, he said.
Wilson said that when finished, the new scrubbers will enable the plant to operate “with an environmentally cleaner process significantly reducing the carbon dioxide emissions.” The plume rising out of the new stack will be different than that of today’s – it will a billow white column year-round, similar to that at the Ghent, Ky., power station, operated by E.ON AG’s LG&E Energy.

Ray Wilson

Ray Wilson

The difference is, the height of the new stack will keep the steam high above the hill when it leaves the plant.
“The new plume will essentially be water vapor,” Wilson explained. “It will be the most obvious sign that the plant’s emissions are cleaner than they were before.”
Wilson said plant officials continue to explore ways to minimize the noise from the plant’s new scrubbers and auxiliary equipment.
Construction employment is expected to top 450 workers. Once finished and operational, the new scrubbers are expected to require adding 20 new full-time employees.

Making of a behemoth

The Clifty Creek story begins in the early 1950s when the need for an enormous amount of electricity was needed by the nation’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to fuel a uranium enrichment plant near Portsmith, Ohio, as part of the Cold War years. Fifteen electric companies joined together to form Ohio Valley Electric Corp. and its subsidiary, I.K.E.C.

Check out more I.K.E.C. Photos

Because the AEC needed the plants in operation as soon as possible, the consortium decided it would be faster and more affordable to build two plants instead of one larger one. It also would be harder for an enemy to bomb two plants versus one.
The consortium beat its construction timetable by nine months in assembling the two almost identical plants, powered by 11 Babcock & Wilcox coal-burning boilers – Madison’s Clifty Creek plant and its sister plant, Kyger Creek, in Cheshire, Ohio, 200 miles up river.

Cliff Carnes

Photo by Don Ward

Cliff Carnes, assistant
plant manager at I.K.E.C.,
poses on top of the main
building at Clifty Creek
Power Station in Madison. Behind him is the massive
SCR scrubbers that were installed in 2002 to reduce
the nitrogen oxide from
the coal-burning flue
gas emissions.

“It was almost like a race to see which plant could be built first, and both plants were finished well ahead of schedule,” Carnes said, referring to a 1950s videotape made at the time about the two plants’ construction.
Groundbreaking for both plants took place in December 1952. Earl Snodgrass headed construction in Madison, while his counterpart, Fred Carman, directed construction at Kyger Creek.
More than 6,000 laborers in various skills were needed, and materials had to be ordered two years in advance, according to the videotape account. Ingredients to make concrete came from local sources, but steel had to be brought in from Kansas and Michigan. The smoke stacks, when finished, were the largest in the world at the time.
In February 1955, 26 months later, the first 215,000-kilowatt generating unit at each plant began operating. By March 1956, the 11th and final unit was placed on line. Construction of the two plants, together with the 345,000-volt transmission system that included 800 miles of electric wires and 200-foot tall towers (four per mile) running back to Portsmith, cost approximately $385 million. No government funds were used to build the two plants, which came in well under the estimated construction cost of $440 million.
At that time, Clifty Creek, with a capacity to generate 1.302 million kilowatts of electricity, and Kyger Creek, at 1.075 million kilowatts, ranked as the world’s two largest investor-owned power generating stations.
Clifty Creek power station held its official dedication day on May 23, 1956; Kyger Creek’s was held the following day.

Operating at full power

Today, the plant operates with a two-month supply of coal on hand and burns 7.5 barges a day of coal, or 14,000 tons. That is equivalent to 4.5 million tons a year. More than 1.4 billion gallons of Ohio River water cycles through the plant daily to condense the steam and return to the river. The six boilers at Clifty Creek are as tall as an 11-story building, each lined with 150 miles of tubing that carry water through the system. The boilers heat the water, turning it into steam. The steam is piped into the turbines at 1,050 degrees and 2,000 pounds of pressure. The turbines spin the generators, which produce electricity.
Miles of wiring connects the boilers, turbines and generators to the six control rooms, one for each of Clifty’s generating units. These bomb-proof rooms are located inside what was the base of the three original stacks. The current two stacks stand just outside the main building.

Clifty Creek

Photo courtesy of IKEC

The first of Clifty Creek’s original three
stacks goes up in March 1954 during
the early construction phase.

Large circuit breakers send the electricity out across the transmission wires to customers throughout the Midwest, since OVEC’s agreement with the government to supply power to the Portsmith uranium enrichment plant ended in 2003. The “sponsoring” utility companies that own all shares of OVEC/IKEC have extended their inter-company power agreement through March 2026 to operate and sell the power generated from the two plants.
“The plant has provided jobs for a lot of people in Kentucky and Indiana over the years,” said Everette Schwarm, 82, Clifty Creek’s third in a line of five plant managers who served from late 1966-1986.
Howard Barr was the first plant manager in 1955, followed by Ivan Hawk, Schwarm, Bill Mayberry and Wilson.

Clifty Creek

Photo courtesy of IKEC

The final of three original stacks
goes up in June 1955. An almost identical
power plant, Kyger Creek, was built simultaneously
by I.K.E.C. in Cheshire, Ohio.

“We had a lot of challenges that came up, but we were always able to deal with them because we had good people,” said Schwarm, a native of Loogootee, Ill., who now resides in Hanover, Ind.
Schwarm said as new technology is brought in, it becomes more involved to operate because it is often more complicated. He said the new scrubbers and stack will create change for employees, but added, “Once the work is complete, the plant should be good for another 20 years, which is good for the employees and the community.”

Back to July 2006 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta