Power Plant Conversions, Museums & Historical Sites

Bankside

One of the notable landmarks in London is Bankside Power Station, now converted into the Tate Modern art gallery – the preeminent commercial power plant conversion in the world. The power plant was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, also the architect of the iconic Battersea Power Station, and built in two phases between 1947 and 1963. The western half of the structure, which included the chimney, replaced an earlier coal-fired power station in 1952. The eastern half of the building was brought into commission in 1963. The power station was closed in 1981 and remained unoccupied until 1994, although a London Electricity substation has remained in operation throughout the period. The steel structure was clad with more than 4.2-mn bricks and the central stack is 99m tall, just lower than the dome of St Paul's Cathedral. The building extends for 200m on the south bank of the Thames

In August 1994, the Tate began a competition to select architects who would transform Bankside into a modern art gallery. The Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron was selected and completed the conversion in 2002, retaining much of the original design. The most noticeable exterior addition is a two-story glass structure which provides natural light into the galleries.

Photograph by Christopher Bell
Posted 26 Mar 2003

Battersea

The Battersea Power Station building designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott is one of the most famous landmarks in the power business. Battersea-A was completed in 1933 and Battersea-B was completed in 1953.  Each coal-fired section had one turbine hall and two chimneys and was an important component of the electric power supply system serving London for decades. Battersea was taken out of service by the Central Electricity Generating Board  in 1982 and plans for its redevelopment began almost immediately.

In 1984, a competition was organized to determine future use and this was won by a consortium with proposals for an indoor theme park. Planning approval was secured in 1986 and demolition and decontamination programs were completed. Some foundation work began, but funding ran out in 1989 and the project could not proceed. Parkview purchased the outstanding loans from the banks in 1993 and following resolution of complex creditors claims, the freehold title was acquired in May 1996. In November 1996 Parkview submitted plans for the redevelopment of the Battersea Power Station Site and received outline consent in May 1997. Detailed planning consent for the majority of the site was granted in August 2000 and the remainder, in May 2001. To date, construction is not underway.

Photograph by Christopher Bell
Posted 12 Jul 2003

Glenwood-Yonkers

The New York Central Railroad began construction on the $2mn Glenwood Power Station in 1901. The plant went online in 1906 powering the mainline between New York and Albany and most of the city of Yonkers. Two coal-fired steam turbines were installed. In 1936, the NYCRR decided to get out of the power generation business and sold to the plant to Consolidated Edison Co of NY for $850,000.

The plant ran into the early 1950s but was gradually backed down as newer, larger power stations plants were built and finally Glenwood was shutdown for good after sitting idle for years. After a failed attempt to sell the structure and the property to the City of Yonkers for a sum of $1, ConEd abandoned it completely, removing its steam turbines and machinery from the pit, and the boilers from their brick stalls. All that was left behind were the hydraulic circuit breakers, stripped switchboards, and 5 or 6 rotary converters, which occupied the 2nd floor of a smaller building, which sat to the north of the main powerhouse. Over the last four decades, the plant became somewhat of an urban legend, the subject of local folklore, and fell victim to more impromptu scavenging and vandalism as the neighborhood around it slowly fell apart. The site is being evaluated for landmark designation and adaptive reuse.

Photograph courtesy of and text adapted from lostcityexplorers.net
Posted 27 Jul 2005

Holliday Hydro

The Holliday Dam and Hydro project in Hamilton County, Indiana, was placed on the National Historical Register in 1995. It was found significant for its innovative generating equipment, its architecturally distinctive powerhouse, and its role in the history of electric power in Indiana.

Built from 1922-1927 on the West Fork of the White River, this is the only known example of its type of generating facility still in existence in central Indiana. It has two Leffel Z Francis turbines with General Electric generators. These are considered the first modern Francis type turbines, with 90% efficiency. In addition, the Holliday powerhouse in the French Chateau style was noted for its architectural significance. [Technical data from Norway and Oakdale Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project Nos UL00-2 & UL00-1) Appendix E4-1: Historic Resources Report, prepared for Northern Indiana Public Service Co by Historic Certification Consultants, 2003.]

Photograph courtesy of Noblesville Preservation Alliance Inc
Posted 6 Aug 2005

 

Plessa

This lignite-fired power plant in Germany opened in 1927 after only 12 months of  construction. The plant was periodically extended until 1942.  It had three or four generating units at various times reaching a maximum capacity of 54 MW. The facility has been preserved as a museum in largely intact condition. Lignite mining in the area started around 1855.

Photograph courtesy of www.kraftwerk-plessa.de
Posted 27 Jul 2005

 

Vermork

The 60-MW Vemork power station at the Rjukan waterfall in Telemark, Norway, was the world’s largest power plant when it opened in 1911 after six years of construction. The project was so expensive that the works had to be finance by overseas sources. The plant became the corporate precursor to Norsk Hydro.  Ten 6-MW T/G sets were supplied by Voith and AEG (Units 1-5) and Escher Wyss and Oerlikon (Units 6-10). Now closed, the facility has been converted into the Norsk Industriarbeidermuseum which, among other things, portrays the area’s history before and during World War II.

In 1934, Norsk Hydro built the first commercial heavy water plant with a capacity of 12 tons per year at Vemork. During World War II, the Allies decided to destroy the heavy water plant in order to inhibit the Nazi development of nuclear weapons. In late 1942, a raid by British paratroopers failed when the gliders crashed and all the raiders were killed in the crash or shot by the Gestapo . In 1943, a team of British-trained Norwegian commandos succeeded in a second attempt at destroying the production facility, one of the most important acts of sabotage of the war.

Photograph by Knut Jacobsen and courtesy of www.telemarksnett.no
Posted 17 Sep 2005

Tejo

Lisbon's Museu da Electricidade opened in May 2006 in the 60-MW Tejo power station, one of Lisbon's architectural landmarks located in the historic Belem district. The new plant replaced the small Junqueira plant built on the same site in 1908 which supplied Lisbon with electricity for ten years. In 1919, the first 6.75-MW unit at Tejo came online burning coal unloaded at quays along the Tagus. The plant operated until 1976 with high-pressure Babcock & Wilcox boilers retrofit in 1941 to drive existing AEG turbine-generator sets.

The main part of the permanent exhibition is some of the original thermoelectric equipment. There are also exhibits on different energy sources, with particular focus on renewable energies, displays on the scientists who contributed most to the discovery and development of electricity, models and diagrams of electric power system components, and hands-on displays.

Photograph courtesy of EDP Energias de Portugal
Posted 17 Feb 2007

Updated 08/19/07

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