McCune retires after 35 years at Thomas Hill Energy Center

Alan McCune was a freshman physical science teacher at Odessa High School when he got a call from his former high school counselor in the summer of 1982. The counselor worked in human resources at Thomas Hill Energy Center and was looking to hire individuals in preparation for the addition of Unit 3. He asked McCune if he was interested in a job. McCune interviewed, and started as a general utility two weeks later.


Thirty-five years later, McCune retired Oct. 13 from Associated. His most recent years with the cooperative that generates electricity for 57 member-owner cooperatives has been as plant chemist. He’s worked in the lab all but six months of his career and said he’s enjoyed every job, from testing to assistant plant chemist to plant chemist overseeing the lab.


Plant chemistry is vital to a steam generating plant, which must have pure water running through it systems to prevent corrosion and costly repairs. In 2014, McCune said Thomas Hill qualified for best-in-class designation for water chemistry and time spent without a chemical cleaning on Unit 3.


“The vigilant attention to detail of the lab techs … is prolonging the life of the boiler because we’re not allowing extra contaminants into the system,” he explained. “That means we don’t have to sacrifice reliability to do a chemical cleaning or take units offline nearly as often.”


McCune has witnessed several improvements and said the amount of instrumentation and electronics used on the units has drastically changed the way people do their jobs.


One of the biggest changes during his career was when Associated closed its mine and converted the units from Missouri coal to low-sulfur western coal to meet Clean Air Act Amendments – reducing sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent. Switching fuel changed the way the plant operated, and Associated was one of the first utilities in the country to burn 100 percent low-sulfur coal in its units. Since, the plant has added other environmental controls to reduce emissions.


In retirement, McCune said he looks forward to spending more time with his family and traveling, but said he will miss seeing his “work family.” He said the hardest part of retiring is not getting to see the people he has gotten to know and worked with for years.


His advice to someone beginning their career at Associated is: “take advantage of any opportunity you have to learn your job, take advantage of all the educational opportunities they give you. Tap into knowledge from those who have been here for years and ask questions.”


Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. is owned by and provides wholesale power to six regional and 51 local electric cooperative systems in Missouri, southeast Iowa and northeast Oklahoma that serve more than 875,000 members. Associated’s mission is to provide an economical and reliable power supply and support services to its members, including the “Take Control & Save” energy efficiency program, Associated is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative.


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