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CU Officially Decommissions James River Power Station, Which Powered Springfield Since 1950s

Michele Skalicky

A large power station in south Springfield that’s served the city for more than 60 years has been decommissioned.

City Utilities retired the two remaining power generation units at James River Power Station and recently officially decommissioned it as a power generating site.

Turbine units 1, 2 and 3 were retired in 2017, and Units 4 and 5 remained in service until 2018.

Those units were able to be retired because of the addition of JTEC Unit-2, which uses coal to generate energy, and because of CU’s expanded renewable energy portfolio, according to the company.

CU spokesman, Joel Alexander, said about 45 percent of the utility company’s electricity comes from renewable sources.

"And we're very, very proud of that," he said.  "When you look at where we were back in 2006 when we started the discussions of going to renewable energy, when we started looking at the discussions of what do we do with the next power generation source for Springfield, we looked at all the options.  And I think back then our percentage of renewable energy was really small, probably less than 10 percent."

The renewable energy used by CU is primarily wind energy.  The utility brings in wind energy through transmission lines from Salina, Kansas and Blackwell, Oklahoma.  There’s also a solar farm in east Springfield that generates about five megawatts of electricity.

Alexander said they began the process of taking the power station out of service a few years ago by removing a landfill that was there.

The power station was built in 1953 to power a growing city, and Springfield Lake was created as a cooling reservoir for the station.  Its turbines were able to burn both coal and natural gas over the years.

CU continues to use portions of the James River Power Station for office space, and there are still two combustion turbines at the site that will continue to be used.  But Alexander isn’t sure about the site’s future use.

"It's a landmark in Springfield.  It really is when you go back and look at the construction phase of it," he said.  "People would go out there on weekends and watch the construction take place."

He said the power station played a huge role in Springfield’s history and has served the city well.