This is the largest coal fired power station in Europe. The large plumes you see is steam from cooling the furnaces. The skinny stack in the middle is the actual emitter of pollutants. This plant is owned by an energy company called Drax, and it supplies about 7% of Britain’s electricity. This particular plant is the largest emitter of CO2 in Britain.
Recently, Drax has publicly stated it would like to convert the power plant to a biomass burning plant, but in order to do so, it’s demanding alternative-energy subsidies from the British government.
This is how it works:
Photo source: Jason Hawkes “Industry" series.
UPDATE: Two features stand out about this. First, the source of all that steam? Water is sucked in through gigantic water pumps(PDF) from the River Ouse. Any remaining river water that isn’t cooked off is dumped back into the river at higher temperatures - very bad for fish. Second, this huge plant is located on a wide flood plain. Flood plains such as this one, have extremely fertile soils, capable of hundreds of years of agricultural production (if farmed well). My understanding is that, after the plant is decommissioned, anyone who would want to build a new home, business, or farm on this site would be responsible for decontaminating the soil. I recall from my EU Environmental Law studies that plants built after a certain date would be responsible for environmental clean up. Prior to that date, owners were off the hook for the costs. This plant was built in 1973, so I’m pretty sure Drax gets a free pass.