The Ironbridge or Buildwas coal power plant refers to a series of two coal-fired power stations which have occupied a site on the banks of the River Severn at Buildwas in Shropshire, England. The current Ironbridge B power palnt is operated by E.ON UK. The station stands near the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, where the Industrial Revolution began.


Project architect Alan Clark worked closely with landscape architect Kenneth Booth, in order to ensure that the station merged as seamlessly as possible into its natural surroundings. In this respect, the power station is unique amongst British coal-fired stations. When viewed from Ironbridge, the surroundings of the station are hidden by wooded hills. The cooling towers were deliberately constructed using concrete to which a red pigment had been added, to blend with the colour of the local soil. This had cost £11,000 in the 1960s. The towers cannot be seen at all from the world famous landmark, The Iron Bridge. The station's single 205 m (673 ft) high chimney is fifth tallest chimney in the UK. It is the tallest structure in Shropshire, as well as being taller than Blackpool Tower and London's BT Tower.

The station's turbine hall is decoratively clad in chipped granite faced concrete panels, aluminium sheeting, and glazing. The turbine hall obscures the rather more functional metal clad boiler house from view. A free-standing administration block continues the theme of concrete panelling, albeit with extensive use of large floor to ceiling windows. Period fittings within the administration block include a board room, containing murals that reference the industries of the Ironbridge Gorge, and a grand entrance hall with a metallic mural.

So impressive were the measures taken to ensure that the power station was an asset to the gorge and not an eyesore, that it was short listed for a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors/The Times conservation award in 1973.


The Ironbridge coal power plant generates electricity using two 500 MW generating sets. The turbines' blades are 1 m (3 ft 3 in) long each and when the turbines spin at their usual fixed speed of 3,000 rpm, the outermost tip of the last row of blades travel at approximately 2,000 km/h. The station uses low NOx burners and electrostatic precipitators to reduce its environmental impact. The majority of the station's ash waste is sold to the construction industry.

Coal supplies

Until recently (June 2010) approximately 3000 - 6000 tonnes of coal was delivered to the power station every day, via a branch line railway through Madeley, Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale, crossing the River Severn via, the Grade 2 Listed Albert Edward Bridge. The railway branch joins the Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury line at Madeley Junction. The coal is delivered variously by DBS, Freightliner and Fastline. After the trains are emptied, they are usually stabled at Warrington Arpley Yard. Scheduled passenger services on the branch line were stopped in the 1960s, and so the line is kept open primarily for the transportation of coal to the power station. However, the Telford Steam Railway has aspirations to take over the now unused western-most track of the former double-track railway between the power station and Lightmoor Junction as part of their southern extension from Horsehay through Doseley.

A steam locomotive hauled special passenger train, organised by railtour company 'Vintage Trains', visited the branch line on 3 November 2007. The tour was entitled Pannier to Ironbridge, and was hauled by former Great Western Railway 0-6-0 Pannier tank No. 9466, which ran a return trip between Tyseley, near Birmingham, and Ironbridge.

Ironbridge today

In 1990 the CEGB was split into different companies for privatisation, and Ironbridge Power Station went through a number of ownership transfers before eventually being owned by Powergen. In 2001 Powergen was taken over by E.ON, an energy company based in Germany.

The station is currently the only major generator of electricity in Shropshire. The plant consumes about 1.2 million tonnes of coal and 20,000 tonnes of oil each year, and generated 2,990 GWh of electricity in 2004.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth claim that as of 2006, the station is the second worst polluting power station in the United Kingdom per megawatt output. Ironbridge has been opted out of the Large Combustion Plants Directive, which means the station will only be allowed to operate for up to 20,000 hours after 1 January 2008, and must close by 31 December 2015.

Ironbridge Coal Power Plant
Country England, United Kingdom
Locale Shropshire, West Midlands
Status Operational
Construction began 1929
Commission date A station: 1932
B station: 1969
Decommission date A station: 1981
  • West Midlands Joint Electricity Authority (1932-1948)
  • British Electricity Authority (1948-1954)
  • Central Electricity Authority (1954-1957)
  • Central Electricity Generating Board (1957-1990)
  • Powergen (1990-2001)
  • E.ON UK (2001-present)

Power station information
Primary fuel Coal

Power generation information
Installed capacity A station: 200 MW
B station: 1,000 MW