Business

Wednesday, Dec 05 2012 06:54 PM

PG&E knocks over part of former power plant

  1. 1 of 3

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    A section of the old PG&E plant is demolished early Wednesday evening in Bakersfield.

    click to expand click to collapse
  2. 2 of 3

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    A section of the old PG&E plant is demolished early Wednesday evening in Bakersfield.

    click to expand click to collapse
  3. 3 of 3

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Demolition work continues on the old power plant on Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway.

    click to expand click to collapse
BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

In the end, a nudge was all it took to bring down the massive, 70-year-old eyesore that until Wednesday stood as part of the old Rosedale Highway power plant.

By that time, by 4:40 p.m., the former turbine building had already been gutted, leaving only steel beams and chunks of concrete dangling from rebar like Christmas tree ornaments.

Demolition workers hundreds of feet away trained pocket cameras on the building as torches cut into the beams to weaken them and water hoses were used to dampen the ground against the inevitable dust cloud.

Silence spread as a pair of arm-like excavators shoved against the structure. Then a rumbling gathered while the building faltered in slow motion.

The ground shook for a moment when finally it toppled over and dust rose several stories high. Suddenly the air tasted of salt.

"And that's how you ruin a perfectly good building," quipped crew leader Tom Allen, who as director of new generation construction with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is more accustomed to building power plants than tearing them down.

"Pretty cool!" PG&E spokeswoman Katie Harlan Allen called out.

PG&E site inspector William Hicks voiced what many around him were surely thinking.

"I've never been on a demo site, so this is, uh, wow," he said, still watching the dust settle.

A virtual replay is set for later this month as PG&E gets ready to knock down the adjacent control building, which along with the rest of the plant hasn't been used since 1983. But the real show -- the explosives -- don't come for another few months.

In March or April, Tom Allen said, the plant's boiler building, containing asbestos and lead paint and wrapped in a giant white tarp, will be blown up. That will end the demolition portion of the job and mark the beginning of the more mundane environmental mitigation job such as soil removal.

All the plant's construction materials, including the concrete and rebar, will be recycled, Tom Allen said.

What eventually will come of the site remains unclear. PG&E plans to work with the city on a redevelopment proposal, Tom Allen said, adding that the company hopes to sell the property.

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