Skipping the Scrapyard

*

Skipping the Scrapyard

March 26, 2018

Two boilers and a barge find renewed purpose in retirement.

Skipping the Scrapyard

Throughout their careers, boilers play a critical role in producing power. Power that impacts communities, businesses and families. Boilers truly help make houses feel more like homes.

While boilers have one of the most important jobs in the world, what happens when they are retired? When it comes time for them to be replaced, most boilers are disassembled and disposed of as waste. With the help of Alabama Power, Cooper/T.Smith and Alabama Wildlife Federation this was not the case for two boilers retiring from Alabama Power facilities. Matt Bowden along with other employees saw the potential in these boilers to have new purpose helping create a different kind of home – an offshore reef.

A plan was put in motion. Not only would this opportunity help foster public and private partnerships, it would also help protect and enhance the environment we depend on. Disposing of the boilers in this way also provided a more cost-effective way of removing these retired materials.

It did not take long for this innovative idea to take-off. Soon after, teams were assembled to makeover the boilers to better suit their new function.

The two-month long process involved careful, detailed work preparing the boilers for a new purpose. The revamped boilers were then welded to a barge provided by Cooper/T.Smith and were sunk together creating a mega-reef. A milestone for Alabama Power, this artificial reef is located off the coast of Dauphin Island in the Gulf of Mexico.

After just a few days, the new-found structure had drawn a crowd of marine life eager to make it their new home. Though it may take years for the reef to fully develop, it will undoubtedly have positive, lasting impacts enhancing the habitat of reef organisms, reef associated finfish, crustaceans and echinoderms for decades to come. In the end, these boilers may not be powering our homes, but instead they are a haven to many different underwater species.

Craig Newton, a biologist with Alabama Marine Resources Division who worked on the reef project, weighed-in on the value of a project like this, “The Alabama Power boiler is important for numerous reasons.  It provides an ecologically friendly alternative to decommission out of date equipment, provides cost savings to citizens of Alabama, and strengthens the economic stability of the tourism industry.”

The economic benefits will continue to impact surrounding communities as this reef is likely to increase tourism including scuba divers and fishermen. It is the hope of Alabama Power, Cooper/T.Smith and Alabama Wildlife Federation that this project will inspire and encourage other companies to be more mindful when disposing of retired materials in the future.