Power Plant Conversions, Museums & Historical Sites

Bankside (England)

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 4.2mn 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 (England)

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 (USA)

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 (USA)

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 the Midwest. 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


Molet (Argentina)

In 1897, Alfredo Molet began development of a new hydroelectric plant on the Río Suquía in Cordoba Province, Argentina, to supply power to the nearby calcium carbide works of Companía Molet de Carburo de Calcio. In 1902, actual development got underway, but in 1909 the hydroelectric scheme was sold to Companía General de Electricidad (CGE). In 1910, calcium carbide production was halted and so the new power plant was instead repurposed to supply electricity to the to the city of Cordoba. In 1946, it became the property of the Province of Cordoba and remained in service until 1959 when the new San Roque hydroelectric plant was commissioned 2km downstream on the Suquía. The nearby substation remains in service.

The first 478-kW unit at Molet came online in 1902 with a turbine from Amme Giesecke and Konegen and a generator from Siemens Shuckert. In 1912, CGE installed two 405-kW Escher Wyss turbines with Brown Boveri generators. After years of neglect, the generating plant was reopened as a Museo Usina Molet in May 2005. With technical assistance from ABB Argentina, the T/G sets were cleaned and refurbished along with the control panel, voltage regulators, relays, and other equipment.


Photograph courtesy of Museo Usina Molet
Posted 1 Feb 2009

Naharayim (Israel/Jordan)

This hydroelectric plant complex consists of three dams, intake channels, bridges, reservoirs, penstocks, and electromechanical equipment. The site is near the junction of the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers and was developed over 80yrs ago by Pinhas Rutenberg in what was then called Transjordan. Construction began in 1927 and almost 3,000 workers were employed during the five years of plant construction making it the biggest construction project to that date in Palestine. On 6 June 1933, the Naharayim power plant was dedicated in a ceremony presided over by the nominal owner, Emir Abdullah, the ruler of Transjordan. The powerhouse was designed for four T/G sets but only three were installed totaling 18.6 MW. In time, Naharayim supplied more than three-quarters of power generated by the Palestine Electric Corp, but this contribution diminished as conventional thermal plants were installed in the region.

Naharayim operated until 1948, when it was abandoned and partially destroyed. For almost 50yrs, the plant's dams, bridges, and reservoir were inaccessible. In 1994, the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty turned the area into an international border crossing and there is now a proposal by Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) to revive the area, including the power plant assets, as a Peace Park and eco-tourism site. In part, the project also proposes to re-build the wetlands along the lower Jordan River.

Photograph courtesy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Posted 6 Aug 2008


Neuchâtel (Switzerland)

The Neuchatel gas turbine is considered the first successful power generating machine of its kind. it was built by Brown Boveri in 1938 and maintained in operative condition by Service Industriels de la Ville de Neuchâtel until 18 Aug 2002 when it was finally shut-down due to a damaged generator. The gas turbine had a power output of 4 MW at generator terminals, a thermal efficiency of 17.4%, and 1,908 starts in its 63yr of service. In 1988,  ASME International (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) designated the Neuchâtel gas turbine a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. In 1995, Neuchâtel GT was found to be in "excellent condition" during a service inspection. After the machine was taken out of service, Alstom acquired the equipment in 2005 and reconstructed it in a new purpose-built display at the their R&D works in Birr. The ASME re-designated this landmark in its new location on 4 Jun 2007. [Photo and data from a brochure "The World‘s First Industrial Gas Turbine Set – GT Neuchâtel" prepared by Septimus van der Linden, then of ABB Energy Services Inc, and published by Alstom in Jun 2007 for the ASME re-designation.]

Photograph courtesy of Alstom
Posted 11 Oct 2008

Plessa (Germany)

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


Salida (USA)

This steam power plant was built in Salida, Colorado, by Salida Edison Electric Light Co. The oldest part of the current building dates to 1887 and Salida’s first public lights were illuminated on 7 Dec 1887, just five years after Thomas Alva Edison installed the Pearl Street power plant in New York City. In 1892, a 1-MW coal-fired plant was added which also supplied the facilities of the D&RG Railroad. The power plant was extended between 1909 and 1914 and again between 1929 and 1945. In 1905, Salida Edison Electric merged with Salida Light Power and Utility Co (which had hydroelectric plants on the South Arkansas River). In 1916, Colorado Power Co acquired the Salida electric system and in turn was acquired by Public Service Company of Colorado in 1924. The Salida steam plant was operated only intermittently starting around 1931, reactivated in 1948, place on standby in 1958, and retired in 1963, after which the structure was used for storage.

In 1987, the building was purchased for $35,000 by Salida Enterprise for Economic Development, which then deeded the property to the city. In 1989, the facility was converted into a theater venue known as the Steam Plant Theater and, in 1995, the outdoor Sculpture Garden opened on the grounds. The Steam Plant is now being further extended as a conference center.

Photograph by Earle Kittleman
Posted 16 Jul 2008

Tejo (Portugal)

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


Tres Xemeneies (Spain)

This is the popular name of the remnants of Barcelona's first large-scale central power station built by AEG for Sociedad Española de Electricidad in 1896/97 and expanded subsequently. Eventually, the site was redeveloped as the headquarters building of regional Spanish power company Fecsa, now part of Endesa. The three stacks were maintained as part of the office complex and are a distinctive local landmark.

Photograph by Jaume Meneses (flickr)
Posted 20 Jul 2008

Vermork (Norway)

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 financed 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 in what is considered to be one of the most important Allied acts of sabotage of the war.

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

Updated 02/07/09