Urban Exploration of a Closed Coal Power Plant
It’s not often that the opportunity comes up to explore a recently closed power plant, it’s even less likely that many will get to explore a power plant that still has power.
In 2015, I had the idea to scout this location and see if it was at all possible, I spent a few hours one day scouting, watching, observing and I came to the conclusion that yes…some day I should attempt this. What I did not know was that at the very same time that I was considering this, two of my exploring friends had already been and were in the process of multiple trips to explore every inch of this vacant coal power plant.
They had posted some photos online and I immediately knew what it was and I could not believe my eyes, I couldn’t believe they beat me to it…but I was extremely happy for them.
Fast forward like 2 days after they posted their pictures and my plans were in place for my turn to explore this coal fired beast. I called RiddimRyder and another guy we were exploring with at the time and we had all set a date, a time and a place to meet. The plans with them fell through, but I was ready mentally prepared for this challenge and I was not turning back. I had spent the day exploring some other houses and a large hospital and psyching myself up for what I knew would be not only an epic adventure, but a risky one!
Waiting for the right time of day and some other things that I needed to wait for, I parked my car at the pre-designated spot almost 2 kms away and started my walk. Because this place is still connected to the grid, I could hear the hum of the plant as I made my way closer. The walk was long to get to the property and once I was on the property it was an even longer walk to the building. Between the time I left my car and the moment I took my first photo, I had spent almost 2 hours walking, watching, waiting and climbing.
No amount of intel ahead of time could have prepared me for the excruciating walk in, navigating the grounds, up these stairs, down these stairs look for this, watch for that. I knew where I had to go, but I had to idea how to get there, my legs were burning, my chest was pumping and my heart was racing.
This Generating Station was the largest coal-fired power plant in North America. At full capacity, it could provide almost 4,000 MW of power into the grid from its base. It was decommissioned in 2013 as part of the Government’s commitment to eliminate coal power. Prior to the commencement of decommissioning, this plant was one of the countries top single sources of greenhouse gases
FINALLY I come out a small door into a large cavernous area full of conveyors and some of the harshest light I have had to shoot with, now I had to find my way from here into the main part of the building.
I come to a door that reads “Unit 3”, this feels like a door I should open….I open this door then a few more doors and finally the gates of heaven have opened and I am FINALLY inside the place where I need to be! Sexy steel goodness, iron beams, pipes, hoses, gauges…..finally I can start shooting and exploring.
The size of this place can barely be translated in photos, but I tried my best to get a few photos to show the scale and size of this place. My plan all along once I got in was to go UP and UP as high as I could go and then work my way across and down until I reached the turbine hall. I was beat, but the amount of adrenaline pumping through my tired body kept me going. Every sense was heightened, every sound was cranked to 11, every noise sounded like a door, or a footstep. In my mind, at any moment I could be confronted and there is no was I was talking myself out of this one.
I continue my explore and make my way down, with no real idea where I am, I just keep shooting when finally I see a different kind of light and the familiar yellow of the generators in the turbine hall, I’ve made it…but now the risks are higher because if there is a worker or security guard it will be down there. I reach one of the many large cranes that cross the turbine hall, but my nerves get the better of me and to this day I still regret not going all the way to the middle of the crane for that perfectly centered money shot down the turbine hall. (I would redeem myself a few years later at a sister plant to this one)
I climb down off of the crane and continue quietly exploring, 15 mins after the crane I realize that I left my camera bag at the crane -SHIT – Now I have to back track to the crane to get my gear, this is it – this is where I am seen. Thankfully, I made it to the crane and my bag was right where I left it and I saw no one along the way.
Now it was time to go to the floor of the turbine hall, then to locate the control room, then I will be done and it will be time to trace my way back out and hopefully figure out how to get back.
This was by far the most terrible part of this explore, walking the main turbine hall, knowing that at any moment there are at least 2 security guards in site and not knowing where they are. So I step carefully, I plan every move and practice stealth like I never have before. I stop for a few photos on the floor and then proceed to find that damn control room.
Once again, the gates of heaven have opened and here it is in all its button and dials, green coloured and lit up glory. One of a handful of control rooms that monitor a set number of units on this end of the turbine hall. This part also sucks, there is a window in the control room that looks right into the turbine hall and anyone walking by this window will see me instantly and I won’t know they are coming until our eyes meet. So I move fast, but not too fast, I need to take this in!
So I’m done, now to safely and stealthily make my way up and out and try and remember where the hell I came from. I knew 75% of where I had to go, but there was one door, one section that I could not find. I had no idea if I was east or west, it turns out I had walked all the way to the opposite end of the plant from where I needed to be. I turn around and finally I find the door the conveyor that will take me down.
After a good 30-45 mins I finally exit to the outside world and come out right where I wanted to be – the giant monstrous coal excavator…this thing looks like Satans Ferris Wheel and I can only imagine how awesome it must be to see it in action. I set up a few angles and get the shots I wanted, now to make my way back towards the car and off the property.
Using shadows I make my way, I still have about 3-4 km’s to walk, some up hill, some down hill. As I walk in the shadows in a rather open area, for the first time I see a security patrol so I quickly dive into a ravine as he passes me hoping he hasn’t seen me, and can’t see me. The truck stops up ahead and proceeds with his patrol. Now my heart is racing and I need to get to high ground and then off site, I have no water, I am exhausted, I am dehydrated and I have walked well over 20,000 steps!
Eventually I make my way to the road and walk in the pitch black to my car, I am finally relaxed, I am finally calming down when the loud bark of a big fucking dog comes running right for me…FAST. I turn around and shine my flashlight on him and he stops running but keeps barking. He doesn’t attack me and he just keeps barking.
So now, almost 4-5 hours after I arrived I am finally back at my car, I message my wife, I message RiddimRyder and a few others who knew of the plans for the day and I advise all that it’s done, it’s a success and I am NEVER going back there again!!!
Now, 3.5 years later a plan for the site has been made, the buildings are being prepped for demolition, the smokestacks have been blown up and the large vast piece of property will be converted to a solar power farm.
This was top 5 of my best explores ever and there will be very little I do for however long I decide to keep doing this that will ever top the experience of exploring this huge vacant and empty coal power plant, all alone.
Thanks for reading!