Gulf Power employees close the doors of flagship power plant
Gulf Power held a closing ceremony on Friday for Plant Scholz, a coal-fired electric generating plant in Sneads, Florida that was retired in April.
In operation since 1953, it was Gulf Power’s smallest electric generating plant, but the employees at Plant Scholz have made it a key part of the community — not just as an employer or a tax base, but as part of the support within the community.
Approximately 165 Gulf Power employees, retirees and their families gathered for the ceremony where several spoke about the employees’ dedication. Plant Manager Mike Smith recognized the last 17 employees who had operated the plant.
“This team was there whenever Gulf Power customers needed them,” Smith said. “When the 2014 winter polar vortex storms came through and Plant Scholz was called on, they were there. Night or day, they were always there.”
Employees raised money for area schools and community events, and they mentored school children. Last Christmas, Plant Scholz employees raised more than $9,000 for Jackson County schools. Over the years, funds raised from golf tournaments and other efforts led by Plant Scholz employees have brought more than $100,000 to Jackson County schools.
Employees who are not retiring are transitioning to other positions within the company.
There has not been a recordable injury or accident at Plant Scholz since 2000, and the plant has consistently been a leader throughout Southern Company, Gulf Power’s parent company, for reliability.
The plant is named for Herbert J. “Hub” Scholz, who was chief design engineer for what was originally to be called the River Junction Steam Plant.
The first assistant plant superintendent for Plant Scholz, Edward L. Williamson, attended the ceremony and shared some memories about working at the plant when it first opened.
“I started out in the lab and moved up to the assistant plant manager position,” Williamson said. “I remember helping to get the two units started up. I really enjoyed it.”
Williamson started at Gulf Power in 1949 and helped engineer the plant design. He retired in 1988.
Plant Scholz served as a critical test-bed for vanguard clean-coal technology that would change the electric generation industry.
In 1977, Plant Scholz was the first to test the Chiyoda scrubber with its advanced jet bubbling reactor, which reduces sulfur dioxide emissions by as much as 95 to 98 percent. A similar design of the scrubber was installed in 2009 at Gulf Power’s Plant Crist in Pensacola.
The Scholz team also successfully tested a baghouse — a technology now being used throughout the industry to further reduce emissions.
Gulf Power President and CEO Stan Connally saluted the employees who had worked diligently to operate the plant over the years.
“I want to thank each and every one of you who have devoted your time, talent and hearts to this place,” Connally said. “Thank you for being a team that truly represented the core values of Gulf Power. Thank you for everything you’ve done for the community. Thank you for doing it all safely — job well done.”
At one time, Plant Scholz was Gulf Power’s flagship plant. Its two generating units had a combined capacity of about 100 megawatts — enough capacity to provide electricity to serve demand for about 25,000 typical residential homes.
Stricter regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency have forced the closure of Plant Scholz. When Gulf Power evaluated the cost to retrofit the plant to meet EPA regulations, the utility decided it was in their customers’ best interest to close the plant.
Gulf Power is an investor-owned electric utility with all of its common stock owned by Atlanta-based Southern Company. Gulf Power serves more than 436,000 customers in eight counties throughout Northwest Florida. The company’s mission is to safely provide exceptional customer value by delivering reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electric service while strengthening our communities. Visit MyGulfPower.com or on the company’s Facebook page, “Gulf Power Company.” News information can be found at GulfPowerNews.com.