Every day and night for the past 50 years, during natural disasters and a pandemic, Liddell Power Station has faithfully helped to keep the lights on across NSW.
Now, as the workhorse of the energy grid approaches the end of its working life, current and former employees will gather on Friday to pay tribute to the coal-fired generator's role in sustaining the Hunter and NSW economies.
"The thing that sets Liddell apart for me is the people," General manager of Liddell and Bayswater power stations Len McLachlan said.
"They are passionate about their power station...it's got such a history about it and you can tell that in the people. They have a pride and a commitment to it."
The Newcastle Herald toured the 2000 megawatt generator ahead of the celebrations.
While its green facade might be fading, the labyrinthine belly of the beast still glows bright.
An intricate maze of giant pipes and cables run to and from four orange turbines that roar as they still churn out about 10 per cent of the state's electricity requirements.
Liddell represented a new era of electricity generation in Australia when it was switched on in the winter of 1971.
It remained the state's largest generator until the construction of Bayswater and Eraring power stations in the mid-1980s.
But, like a faithful old car, decades of wear and tear have taken their toll.
"In the last few years of a power station's life the reliability starts to drop. We are seeing that and we are working with it," Mr McLachlan said.
"Our goal is to carefully and safely retire Liddell in the next couple of years."
AGL plans to close Liddell in stages across 2022 and 2023. The first of the power station's four 500 megawatt units will close next year, with the remaining three units expected to be brought offline in 2023.
Among those who will take some time out to reflect on Friday will be Eli Serhan who was amongst the early apprentices on site in 1971.
"I've had so many opportunities since starting as an electrical apprentice at Liddell and seeing the first unit come online," he said.
"Being from a migrant family, my work at Liddell allowed me to grow and develop a rewarding career while providing a secure lifestyle for my loved ones.
"I am proud to still be part of Liddell's story, serving the energy industry and keeping the lights on."
AGL Chief Operating Officer, Markus Brokhof paid tribute to the power station's role as an anchor in the Hunter Valley community.
"Over Liddell's lifespan, thousands of employees have come through its gates, helping to generate more than 400 million mega-watt hours of electricity," he said.
"Annually, the station produces enough energy to power more than one million average Australian homes."
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While there is sadness as the end of an era looms, Mr McLachlan said there was genuine enthusiasm for the plans to turn the Liddell site into a renewable energy hub.
"Even though people know they have made their careers on coal there is a strong recognition, especially over the last couple years, that renewable energy is here and it's here to stay and transition is occurring," he said.
"People are very pleased that future energy generation, whatever its form, will be occurring here because it just continues Liddell's legacy.
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