High school students from four Ohio electric cooperative territories received the rare opportunity to tour Cardinal Plant, considered one of the world’s cleanest power-producing coal plants in the world. Cardinal Plant will soon be only one of four coal plants still operating in the state due to overreaching EPA regulations that have forced many coal plants into early retirement—putting electricity reliability at risk for the first time in Ohio.
A total of 127 students from the Ohio cooperatives took part in the half day long tour. Participating were Findlay High School and Millstream Career Center (Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative); Fairbanks High School (Union Rural Electric URE); Sheridan High School (South Central Power); New London High School (Firelands Electric Cooperative).
“It’s important to show students there are a lot of career opportunities in the cooperative world,” said Coty Lee, Safety & Health Supervisor, Cardinal Plant. Some opportunities can be pursued right out of high school, and some after college—in engineering, finance, IT, communications, human resources, line work, customer service.
The students were first shown a video to better understand the history of how not-for-profit electric cooperatives formed in Ohio in 1935 under the Rural Electrification Act. The purpose was to bring electricity outside the cities, and into the rural agricultural areas of Ohio. They also learned how the cooperative’s Buckeye Power, which owns Cardinal Plant, believes in an all-of-the-above approach to power generation—including coal, natural gas, solar, wind, hydropower, and biofuels. Coal is the baseload source of power generation because it is reliable and available, 24/7, 365 days a year.
The students were given a guided walking tour inside the plant that produces 1800MW of power—enough to light 200-million LED lightbulbs. They saw firsthand how electricity is made from beginning to end. And how even the waste material left over, called fly ash, is sold, and used in the manufacturing of concrete products.
“Society pushes the narrative on young kids that coal is bad. It’s nice to have them on site so they can see a coal plant for themselves. When I was in college, all you would hear is move away from coal at all costs. You would never hear about all the jobs it offers, or the benefit of the sustainability and reliability of power generation behind it,” said Corey Seneff, IT Systems Analyst II.