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When to call it a steam plant

Letter from Charlie Green

Nomenclature – July 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine


While technically your assessment of the misuse of “steam plant” is correct [in the June edition], the electrical power industry evolved in a different direction. I learned this in my career with Colorado Springs Utilities.

I worked for decades at the Martin Drake Power Plant which was purchased from a private owner in the ’40s. It was generally referred to in the beginning as the South Steam Plant: “South” to distinguish it from the new north plant, the George Birdsall Power Plant; and “steam” because it used that newfangled stuff to make electricity instead of hydropower which had been the standard for decades.

Then the City Council decided to name power plants for prominent Colorado Springs citizens and only a few old-timers ever referred to it as the SSP anymore and when they did, it just confused things for us newer people and the press!

Power plants which produce both steam for heating and electricity are generally called cogeneration (cogen) plants; they are common in the food processing industry where the steam turbine delivers various steam extraction pressures for the factory. Essentially the turbine is a big pressure regulator since that is the primary product and electrical output is dependent on factory steam demand.

Charlie Green

Texas Creek