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Spurlock Station keeps the lights on

East Kentucky Power team of nearly 900 completes three-year power project despite major challenges

DESPITE THE TREMENDOUS COMPLEXITY of getting work done during the pandemic, one of the biggest construction projects in the history of East Kentucky Power Cooperative, the power provider for 16 electric cooperatives in the state, is on schedule and meeting budget at Spurlock Station. 

Ambitious planned maintenance projects were also completed at the Maysville plant last year. 

It was all hands on deck— in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic—to manage projects that included converting two generating units to dry ash-handling systems, along with many other projects. 

Plant Manager Joe VonDerHaar says that when COVID-19 hit in March last year, an already-challenging list of projects and planned work became much more difficult. But, he says, the dedication and heart of the employees allowed them to win the day. 

“The Spurlock team, the construction team, our contractors and our company support groups all rose to the occasion to complete our plans regardless of the pandemic challenges,” he says. “We were successful.” 

With nearly 900 contractors on site at the start of the pandemic, many of them from out of state, the challenge of staying safe and completing the work was enormous. 

Employees discuss work near the new wastewater treatment plant. Photo: Tim Webb
For safety, employees and contractors use protective screens during meals and breaks. Photo: Tim Webb
A member of Team Spurlock performs one of the countless welding jobs that took place last year. Photo: Tim Webb

“The whole team was in uncharted territory, but in the true spirit of a rural electric cooperative, everyone stepped up, solved the problems, and forged ahead,” says Mary Jane Warner, EKPC vice president of engineering and construction. “2020 will go down as a year that displayed in full view the deep resolve of our teams and their dedication to keeping the lights on for our members.” 

It was a 24/7 battle against the coronavirus, but the Spurlock Station team patiently followed multiple COVID-19 protocols—wearing masks, taking temperatures, eating separately and conducting online meetings—while focusing on the tasks at hand. 

“Last year was one of the most challenging, but most successful years ever here at Spurlock,” says Kyle Shadoan, Spurlock’s maintenance manager. “With a total of 32 weeks of planned outages, everyone involved worked so hard, stayed safe and focused while grinding it out every day. Looking back, we are all really proud of what was accomplished and very appreciative of everyone’s dedication and hard work.” 

The fall maintenance outage lasted from September 12 through December 9. 

“With an outage of this size, plant expertise and contractor support services, such as scaffold and insulators, get stretched thin,” Shadoan says. “Everyone bought into the big picture of the outage as a whole vs. their individual job.” 

The large scope of work involved the simultaneous coordination of many complex project schedules. For example, crews had to install steel tracks to transport a 33-ton piece of equipment, moving the massive part while minimizing the impact on multiple other jobs that were underway. 

“Going into 2020, we knew accomplishing everything that we had been planning for three years would be challenging,” says EKPC Senior Vice President Craig Johnson. “Now throw in a 100-year pandemic on top of everything. Not only did we accomplish everything that was planned, our teams did it safely, on budget and on time. I couldn’t be any prouder of Spurlock Station and our Engineering & Construction Team for such a great outcome in 2020.”

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