Little Barford Power Station

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Little Barford Power Station
Little Barford 2023.jpg
Little Barford power station in 2023
Official nameLittle Barford power station
Coordinates52°12′16″N 0°16′8″W / 52.20444°N 0.26889°W / 52.20444; -0.26889Coordinates: 52°12′16″N 0°16′8″W / 52.20444°N 0.26889°W / 52.20444; -0.26889
StatusA & B decommissioned and demolished, C: operational
Commission dateA: 1941, B: 1959, CCGT: 1994
Decommission dateA: 1981 B: 1984
Owner(s)British Electricity Authority
Central Electricity Authority
Central Electricity Generating Board
Operator(s)RWE Generation UK
Thermal power station
Primary fuelA & B Coal, CCGT Natural gas
Tertiary fuelFuel oil
ChimneysA & B 3
Cooling towersA & B 2
Cooling sourceA & B river water + cooling towers, river water + hybrid cooling towers
Combined cycle?Yes
Power generation
Units operationalCCGT 2 total 727 MW
Make and modelGeneral Electric Frame 9F gas turbines
Units decommissionedA & B all decommissioned
Nameplate capacityCCGT 727 MWe
Annual net outputA & B see graphs in text
External links
CommonsRelated media on Commons

grid reference TL185577

Little Barford Power Station is a gas-fired power station just north of the village of Little Barford (close to St Neots) in Bedfordshire, England. It lies just south of the A428 St Neots bypass and east of the Wyboston Leisure Park. The River Great Ouse runs alongside. It was formerly the site of two coal-fired power stations, now demolished. The station is operated by RWE.

The net capacity of 727 MW is sufficient to supply over half a million households.[1]


Little Barford coal-fired power station before its demolition in 1989

Little Barford CCGT power station was built on the site of two former coal-fired power stations opened in 1939 and 1959 that had a generating capacity of 126 and 127 MW.

Little Barford A[edit]

Little Barford A station was built and operated by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Electricity Company. It was authorised in June 1938 and commissioned in 1941. It had an installed capacity of 126 MW and comprised 4 × 31.5 MW English Electric generators.[2] The boilers — two International Combustion and two Stirling[3] — burned pulverised coal and produced steam at a rate of 1,200,000 lb/hr (151.2 kg/s) at a pressure of 650 psi (44.83 bar) and 482 °C.[2] The station was adjacent to the East Coast Main Line railway, coal was delivered and ash was removed via sidings and a connection with the railway (at 49 miles & 69 chains from London Kings Cross).[4] The siding was extant in 2008 but had been removed by 2016.[5] In 1961 the oldest generating set was 20 years old (commissioned in 1941) and the thermal efficiency of the station was 22.63 per cent.[6] Water for condensing was abstracted from the River Ouse and was supplemented with a cooling tower with a capacity of 2.5 million gallons per hour.[2][3]

The output in GWh over the period 1946-82 was as follows.[2][6][3][7][8]

The A station was closed on 26 October 1981.[9]

Little Barford B[edit]

Construction of Little Barford B station started in 1959 by the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB). It had an installed capacity of 127 MW and comprised 2 × 63.5 MW C.A. Parsons generators. The Foster Wheeler boilers[3] burned pulverised coal and produced steam at a rate of 1,100,000 lb/hr (138.6 kg/s) at a pressure of 900 psi (62.1 bar) and 482 °C.[2] Cooling was by cooling towers. In 1961 the oldest generating set was 2 years old (commissioned in 1959) and the thermal efficiency of the station was 28.96 per cent.[6] The output in GWh over the period 1961-84 was as follows.[2][6][7] The station had completely remote operation of the two 60 MW units. The automatic electronic boiler control system used online computers and process controllers, the first in the UK.[10]

Demolition of both stations took place in 1989, an event covered by the children's TV programme Blue Peter. Two 60 metres (197 ft) and one 75 metres (246 ft) tall chimneys and two 55 metres (180 ft) high cooling towers were blown up.[11]

The two Parsons turbo-alternators of the B station were shipped to Malta. One was recommissioned as Unit 8 at Marsa Power Station and remained in service until 15 February 2015.

Little Barford CCGT[edit]

Construction of the gas-fired station started in 1994, and it opened in 1996. The company that built it, Swindon-based National Power, became Innogy plc in August 2000. That company was bought by the German electricity company, Essen-based RWE in March 2002, and became RWE npower. The station is now owned and operated by RWE Generation UK.

In 2002, a 12 MWe electrical storage facility was built by Regenesys Technologies Ltd (previously owned by Innogy plc but bought by VRB Power Systems in October 2004) which uses polysulfide bromide flow batteries. However, the facility was never operated commercially due to engineering issues in scaling up the technology.[12]

In 2019, the failure of the plant was partially responsible for a large scale nationwide power cut on the evening of 9 August, after lightning hit a transmission line.[13][14]

The station was constructed as a turn-key project awarded to GEC Alsthom with principal equipment supplied by various GEC Alstom divisions including the gas turbine, LP steam turbine, steam boilers, electrical generator and transformers. Civil engineering and building was sub-contracted to Henry Boot. The GEC Alsthom Site Manager was Mike Snudden. The station underwent an upgrade in 2012.

Original specification[edit]

The site is a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power station using natural gas. It originally had two General Electric Frame 9F gas turbine engines each producing 220 MWe. Each of these had a Stein Industry heat recovery steam generator which lead to one steam turbine produced by Alstom which produced 256 MWe.

Upgraded specification[edit]

In 2012, the plant was upgraded to General Electric Frame 9FA+e gas turbine engines each producing 241 MWe. They are still connected to the original heat recovery steam generator which led to the steam turbine produced by Alstom which now produces 265 MWe.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Little Barford power plant". RWE. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f CEGB Statistical Yearbook (various dates). CEGB, London.
  3. ^ a b c d Garrett, Frederick C., ed. (1959). Garcke's Manual of Electricity Supply vol.56. London: Electrical Press. pp. A-71, A-126.
  4. ^ Jacobs, Gerald (2006). Railway Track Diagrams Book 2: Eastern. Bradford on Avon: Trackmaps. pp. 15c. ISBN 0954986628.
  5. ^ Brailsford, Martyn (2016). Railway Track Diagrams Book 2: Eastern. Frome: Trackmaps. pp. 15c. ISBN 9780954986681.
  6. ^ a b c d "British Power Stations operating at 31 December 1961". Electrical Review. 1 June 1962: 931. 1962.
  7. ^ a b CEGB Annual Report and Accounts, various years
  8. ^ Electricity Commission, Generation of Electricity in Great Britain year ended 31st December 1946. London: HMSO, 1947.
  9. ^ Mr. Redmond (16 January 1984). "Coal-fired Power Stations". Hansard. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  10. ^ The Electricity Council (1987). Electricity Supply in the United Kingdom: a Chronology. London: The Electricity Council. p. 78. ISBN 085188105X.
  11. ^ "The day a giant power station was blown up". Cambridge News. 20 December 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  12. ^ "Review of Electrical Energy Storage Technologies and Systems and of their Potential for the UK" (PDF). p. 24. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 September 2010. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  13. ^ Ambrose, Jillian (12 August 2019). "National Grid 'had three blackout near-misses in three months'". The Guardian. London.
  14. ^ "National Grid ESO power cut report: Industry responds". Energy Live News. 10 September 2019.

External links[edit]