Climate & Energy

Watching coal plants crumble to a Tchaikovsky score is insanely satisfying

Hearing the news that a coal plant, a facility that once belched CO2, mercury, sulphur, nitrogen oxides, and other hazardous chemicals into the air, is shutting down is certainly a cause to celebrate. Seeing it explode in glorious high definition and set to lively classical music is another thing altogether.

Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the U.S., released a video this week showing the death of four of its old coal power plants, giving environmentalists an awesome soundtrack to the death of the coal industry.

The video shows the demolition of Weatherspoon, H.F. Lee, Cape Fear, and Cliffside, all facilities in North Carolina. The demolitions, set to a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, are nothing short of transfixing.

A spokesperson for Duke Energy told Grist that the plants were mainly operated from the 1930s to the ’60s, and were destroyed as a way to celebrate “modernizing the way we generate power for the past decade.” But as the company transitioned away from coal, it looked to natural gas as its main money-maker and maintained its spot atop the country’s worst carbon emitters in 2015.

Thanks in large part to cheap natural gas, many of America’s coal plants have been reduced to rubble — or are about to be. As of last November, over 200 coal-fired stations had been retired or were scheduled for retirement. According to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance last year, about 17 percent of U.S. coal-fired power generation is expected to disappear over the next few years. It’s been said that the coal industry is “in terminal decline,” and there’s no better way to visualize that than the crumbling of an enormous, dirty power plant.