When the Morro Bay Power Plant generated its first kilowatt it was an engineering marvel, even if it had only one smokestack. The special section published July 7, 1955 as the plant built by PG&E plant opened contains a lot of eye openers.
According to the Bechtel advertisement the plant’s desalting component was believed to be the first large scale on-land application of the process. Other articles filled in the details. Steam plants need large quantities of very clean water to prevent buildup of impurities in the plumbing. Raw sea water contains 36,000 parts per million of solids, drinking water contains 100-1,000 ppm and the two step evaporative process brought the former sea-water to 1 part per million.
Each boiler contains 29,240 gallons of purified water. That water is not sitting still. The high pressure steam circulates at the rate of 197,200 gallons per minute.
This technology was then in common use on navy ships. It was an ironic development because the plant was sited on a former World War II navy facility.
The plant would eventually expand to three smoke stacks and four power generation units.