The IM cooling tower was built in 1921 in the Monceau-sur-Sambre suburb in Charleroi, Belgium. When construction was completed, the power plant immediately became one of the largest coal-fired power plants in Belgium.
In the interwar period, the new power plant helped the rapid development of the Belgian industry. The IM power station was owned by Electrabel which produced electricity and heat, providing electricity and natural gas to six million people.
By 1977, the power plant was considered the primary source of energy for the Charleroi area.
During its use, the tower cooled the incoming hot water with the help of wind. The wind entered through a hole in the bottom of the tower and rose up, cooling the hot water. The air was heated up during this process, so it was warm when it left the tower.
During the peak of production, the I.M. power plant could cool up to 480,000 gallons (1800 cubic meters) of water per minute.
By the 1970s, the owners of the power plant decided to switch to using gas. For this, the power plant was re-equipped. New components and additional equipment were added, which made it possible to replace coal with gas.
By 1990, the station had already got six power units: two blocks of 60 MW each, two blocks of 130 MW each, and two blocks of 300 MW each. The total capacity of the power plant was approximately 1 GW – for this reason, it was unofficially dubbed the “Gigawatt Power Plant.”
A short while later, a report came out showing that this power plant accounted for 10% of all CO2 emissions in Belgium. In addition, in the humid and warm microclimate of the gutters, colonies of pathogenic bacteria developed, which could be the cause of mass infections.
All this brought the plant to the attention of Greenpeace. In 2006, the charity generated enough negative publicity against the power plant that it was recognized as both dangerous and non-convertible. In 2007, all work ceased, and the plant was closed.
The power plant is still in an abandoned state today and should be demolished. However, until it is, the plant will likely remain one of the most popular places for urban researchers and photographers due to its fascinatingly dystopian nature.
Since metal thieves gutted this place from the inside out, security guards patrol the area. But that doesn’t stop the cooling tower from being a popular attraction for lovers of abandoned places.
At present, the future of the power plant is unknown. A decision was made in 2006 to demolish it, yet it still stands. It is possible that the structure was left in recognition of the fact that, over the years, the power plant has brought a lot of benefits to Belgium.
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