Ratcliffe on Soar coal-fired power station in the Trent Valley was new and modern when I was studying at Nottingham University in the 1970s. It was a major landmark from both the Real Ale pub at Trentlock (where the Erewash Canal meets the River Trent) or when I used to cycle south of the Trent.
Back then, Ratcliffe generated electricity at a relatively low price so it was almost always running and so pushing out clouds from its eight cooling towers, even in summer. I remember being impressed at the huge plume of steam from the cooling towers, indicative of the tremendous amount of electrical energy that was being generated.
We did a visit as part of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree course, the engineers at Ratcliffe showed us the (then) state of the art and efficient coal-handling and generating technologies. We would think differently now that coal has been unmasked as a major contributor to climate change.
Ratcliffe on Soar power station is still running forty years and more on. It generates up to 2,000 MW whereas the generating capacity of Rampion wind farm offshore of Brighton is up to 400 MW, if there is enough wind. Robin Rigg Wind Farm located in the Solway Firth has a generating capacity of up to 180 MW and even East Anglia One, one of the UK’s newest and largest wind farms, is up to only 714 MW, from 102 wind turbines.
This frosty morning the steam plume from the cooling towers at Ratcliffe extends for 20 miles or more above the Trent Valley, blocking out the sunshine and merging with the other clouds.
Today’s (diesel) train to Sheffield halted at East Midlands Parkway station (opened 2008), affording an impressive close view of the eight cooling towers.
Note: I’ve painted out some of the artefacts due to photography through the train windows.