OSWEGO — The Port City skyline is expected to soon look very different, as one of the most recognizable lakeshore landmarks undergoes a facelift.
The four smaller ventilation stacks at the lakeside NRG Oswego Generating Station, known by locals as Huey, Dewey, Louie and Frank, are being removed. Two of the stacks have already come down, with the other two scheduled to be removed in the spring, according to an NRG spokesman.
Huey, Louie, Dewey and Frank’s removal will not have any effect on the plant’s energy output capacities, according to NRG. When NRG purchased the plant from Niagara Mohawk in October 1999 the four stacks had already been retired. The smaller stacks have not been used since the 1990s.
The stacks, known as Units 1 though 4, were retired and the decision to take them down is part of NRG’s “decommissioning plans,” the company said.
NRG’s 1617MW plant, known as Oswego Harbor Power, is located at 261 Washington Blvd. on 93 acres along the shore of Lake Ontario. At full capacity it can generate enough electricity to support more than 1.3 million homes.
NRG officials said there are no plans to demolish the two larger towers. The facility currently consists of two large steam generators that are primarily oil-fueled.
Unit 5 and Unit 6, the two larger towers, were built in 1975 and 1979, respectively, and both currently operated as peaking units. Peaking units essentially supply backup power to the utility grid when primary power generators are down or demand is high.
Longtime residents of Oswego may remember a time before the two larger stacks, which dwarf the four smaller ones and bear aircraft warning lights that can be seen for miles, were built. Back then, the shorter metal towers were more visible, as was a mountainous stack of coal that sat on the east side of the plant, back when it ran on coal.
George Ranous, a former employee of the plant, spoke with The Palladium-Time this week and said the facility serves as a source of backup power in part because the plant can be powered up quickly. Ranous, who worked at the plant for 48 years, fondly remembered being able to determine the wind’s direction by the exhaust coming from the stacks.
“It’s the end of an era, like a lot of things,” Ranous said of the stacks' demise. “Things are just not the same anymore.”
A shift control operator who began working at the plant while he was in college right next door at Oswego State, Ranous said the stack’s Disney-inspired names originated from college students in the late 1960s.
“It all depends how old you are,” Ranous said when asked what other memories and stories might be brought out by the removal of the stacks.
Ranous said the plant used to be a much larger part of the town’s economy. He said when he worked at the plant years ago, it was running constantly and employed hundreds of people who were well paid. He said he enjoyed his time at the plant and the people he worked with.
John Allen, who has lived in Oswego much of his life, told The Palladium-Times about an enormous snowstorm in the 1960s that dropped several feet of snow on the city and rendered plows ineffective. Allen said the solution was an industrial-sized bulldozer that was brought out from the plant and cleared the streets one-by-one.