Video Transcript: SJRPP History

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When SJRPP went online in late 1986, it was state of the art. It also never stopped running.

Larry, SJRPP Engineer, 32 years:  “The plant was fully loaded night and day. We did very little cycling. It was just so much cheaper than other sources of energy in this area that it was loaded to the max all the time. For several years, the plant was actually the plant with the highest capacity factor of any plant in North America.”

Tourists came from all over the world to see the control room, the main turbine generators, the tons of coal and petcoke that would eventually fire the plant. It’s been said that the character the commissioning crew establishes during the start-up, will remain with the power plant throughout its life. For SJRPP, the commissioning crew was fixated on safety.

Raymond, SJRPP Solid Fuel Supervisor, 31 years says: “It wasn’t easy starting up because most people didn’t have a written document so we had to sit down there and just write all this down and document so that there were safety documents and everyone could be trained by documents rather than figuring it out on their own.”

James, SJRPP Mechanical Technician, 28 years says: “It was a family atmosphere. Everyone looked out for each other. They cared for each other and they took care of each other. So if my brother’s doing something I think is going to hurt him, my responsibility is to say ‘Hey, don’t you think there’s a better way to do that?’”

From 2011 to 2014, SJRPP employees worked 2 million man hours with no lost time accidents. In June 2017, the plant achieved another milestone: 1 million man hours with no recordables. Longtime employees believe safety made the plant successful.

Alan, SJRPP Lab Supervisor, 32 years: “Safety is a big team effort out there. A good safety program we had throughout the years. People care about one another, that’s probably the biggest part of it.”

Raymond, SJRPP Solid Fuel Supervisor, 31 years says: “If anything I can say that lasted, it united us, it was safety, because it was always a tailboard topic that we could just get better at, you know and help the young guys get better at.”

SJRPP was JEA’s answer to a turbulent time. Throughout the seventies and early eighties, JEA was dependent on OPEC oil to generate electricity. Rates were extremely high. Customers were extremely angry. So JEA teamed up with FPL to build a new coal-fired plant on the Northside. City council approvals did not come easily. Northside residents fought what they called a dirty power plant every step of the way. To counter that, JEA promised a park-like atmosphere that included a nature center on Pelotes Island.

Larry, SJRPP Engineer, 32 years says: “A lot of people were impressed by the landscaping and which I guess, as an engineer I always found that kind of a waste of money all this landscaping, but whoever thought of that was a genius because it did buy us a lot of good PR.”

With the plant well under construction, JEA began a nationwide search to find the best and the brightest to work there. Ricky was 20 years old and living in Minnesota when he drove to Montana for his interview.

Ricky, SJRPP INC Manager, 32 years says: “And my interview probably lasted 10 minutes no more than ten minutes and you know, somehow they called me and said I had the job so I was very fortunate. I’ve been grateful for that for a long, long time.”

Since most employees came from out of state and worked long hours together at the plant, they became extremely close.

Alan, SJRPP Lab Supervisor, 32 years says: “Watching people get married. Watching people have kids. Watching their children get married. Watching their children have children. So that’s probably – watching the kids grow up, watching everyone grow old. It’s probably… Yeah it something I’ll always remember. It happened fast.”

In the end, longtime employees say they’re sad to see the plant close.

James, SJRPP Mechanical Technician, 28 years says: “I want everyone to know the type of people, and the integrity they have at SJRPP. You can’t beat that anywhere. I wouldn’t trade those guys for anybody.”

Ricky, SJRPP INC Supervisor, 32 years says: “It’ll always hold a place in my heart and a lot of other guys too.”