End of Life for Cockenzie’s Iconic Chimneys

Photo by LM Bruce

Cockenzie’s iconic chimneys were demolished by Controlled explosion on Saturday 26th September, changing the skyline around East Lothian and the Forth forever.

Scottish Power captured the moments leading up to the button press, speaking to former workers at the station and local residents before the chimneys were brought together for the first and last time.

Originally operational in the summer of 1967, Cockenzie was officially opened on the 24th May 1968 by the Secretary of State for Scotland, The Rt. Hon. William Ross. The Power Station generated more than 150 Terawatt Hours (TWh) of electricity in its lifetime, enough to power the average annual electricity needs of more than 1 million homes every year during its 45 years of operation. In total, it is estimated that more than 10,000 people have been employed at Cockenzie, during construction and operation, with many thousands of other jobs supported in the wider supply chain and local area.

When Cockenzie opened in 1967, it was the largest power station in Scotland and Britain was still 2 years away from natural gas being used in electricity generation. Coal accounted for approximately 72% of the fuel input used for electricity generation in Britain, compared to approximately 20.5% in 2014.

In an average year the station would receive approximately 800 train loads of coal, meaning that up to 36,000 freight trains stopped at Cockenzie’s coal handling plant to make deliveries over the lifetime of the station. The last delivery took place at 3pm on Saturday 9th March.

Designed by Sir Robert Matthew (who also designed Edinburgh Airport and the Royal Commonwealth Pool), and famous for its distinctive twin chimney stacks, the station was built with a generating capacity of 1,200MW, comprising four identical units, each capable of generating 300MW. Due to strategic investment and high levels of maintenance, the station comfortably outlived its original estimates of a 25-30 year life cycle.

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