Well well well… Ever since seeing photos of the site back in 2013, I have been desperate to explore it. I finally did in August of 2021, with my good friends Landie_Man and Robin – not a neo-Batman duet, I hasten to add!
Commission Date: 1972.
Decommission Date: 2013.
Capacity: 2,000MW (four units).
Cooling Towers: none – sea water was used as coolant.
Chimney: one single 200 meter (650ft) multiflue stack.
Fuel Type(s): heavy fuel oil.
Control System: CUTLASS – never modernised.
Boiler Manufacturer: John Thompson LTD.
Turbine Generator Manufacturer: Parsons.
Architect: Colin Morse of Farmer and Dark.
Fawley Power Station was one of the crown jewels of the Central Electricity Generating Board power stations, whilst also a thorn in its side. Planning for Fawley began in the early 1960s, and land adjacent to the ExxonMobil owned Fawley Oil Refinery on the banks of the River Solent was purchased by the CEGB. The fuel type that was chosen was heavy fuel oil that could be directly supplied via a pipeline from the adjacent refinery. The power station was designed by Colin Morse of Farmer and Dark, and built between 1965 and 1971 and comprised of four 500MW generating units. The structure was unique in the fact that it had a large de-aerator building clad in marine grade glass. The building’s design was magnificent and stood out from the low lying lands, its sharply defined lines and 200 meter tall chimney standing proud, juxtaposing the flying saucer shaped control room. However, despite its capacity, Fawley was never used to its full potential thanks to the oil crisis of 1973 which saw the price of crude oil shoot sky high. As a consequence, Fawley operated intermittently. It came into its own between 1984 and 1985 during the miners’ strikes which saw coal stocks at coal fired power stations rapidly dwindling. Fawley was fired up to help support the National Grid. In 1995, two units were mothballed – their control desks and flue gas ducting leading from the boilers to the chimney were removed, leaving the power station with a generating capacity of 1,000MW.
In 1990, the Central Electricity Generating Board was dissolved and the power industry was privatised. Fawley Power Station was passed to National Power in whose hands it remained until 2001, whereupon National Power became Innogy plc. In 2002, Innogy plc was acquired by German company RWE, and it was rebraned RWE nPower. Fawley remained in the ownership of RWE nPower until 2017 when it was sold to a consortium of developers. In 2018, demolition of Fawley began – in October 2019, the turbine hall and de-aerator bay were blown up, followed by boilers 1 and 2 in March 2021, then boilers 3 and 4 in August 2021, then the chimney and maintenance workshops in October 2021. The control room and transformer bays were demolished throughout 2022.
In all honesty, we were not expecting to find access into this building. Demolition of the main power station was properly along, with only the control block, transformer bays and chimney still standing – the rest had been demolished which is a crying shame. But hey ho… nothing one can do when a multi-billion property development consortium decides to build houses. Unfortunately, the power station was a four unit one, and in the 1990s, two of the units were mothballed. Much of the plant and equipment used for them was taken out, along with their two control displays so only two control desks remained of the four units. But even so, they were a sight to behold.
As is normally the case, it was a very early wake up call for this one. I woke at 2:30am, had a quick wash and then got dressed and woke up Landie_Man and Robin who were staying at mine. I then made them coffees, and soon after we set off on the hour long drive. We arrived just as dawn was beginning to break over the quiet landscape. The towering 200 meter high chimney was lit up by the red aircraft warning lights as we walked along the path to get to the access. After a good ten minute walk, we got to the entrance into the site and crawled along a ledge with a thirty foot drop to our left! However, we still persevered and within a few minutes we were at the control block. We spotted some ball cameras so we kept to the edge of the building and inched around it and then boom, we found the access. All three of us quickly piled inside and then slowly and tentatively walked around the inside, listening and keeping watch. The lights of the building were on so we were apprehensive, and there was a car parked outside as well, so doubly apprehensive. We didn’t know if security inhabited the structure or not. We decided to chance it after seeing nobody in the car, and dart for the stairs. So that’s what we did. Up the stairs three floors to the control room. And bloody hell, I can tell you right now it was one of the best control rooms I have ever explored. Eight years of waiting had finally paid right off for me. And I was so happy. We were inside the control room for a good two hours or so and in the first hour, security repeatedly patrolled. At one point, security got out of the van and walked towards the building. So, Landie_Man squashed himself and his bag inside a control panel (yes, you read that right, a control panel!) to hide, so myself and Robin went and hid in a server room after locking the door behind us. We didn’t hear anything but Landie_Man thought he heard voices a few minutes after we disappeared to hide. Quite scary. However, saying that, we weren’t bothered by any more security patrols after that. I was so pleased after we got out that I could tick this off the bucket list.
The photographs are posted below for your enjoyment!