Ardnacrusha Power Station is open for summer tours to schools and the general public to celebrate 90 years of generating electricity.

Public tours of the facility were first organised in June 1928 with over 85,000 visitors during the first nine months.  ESB has revived this tradition for the summer with school group visits until 30th June and public tours during July and 31 August.

The guided tours can accommodate groups of up to 30 people and take approximately 90 minutes. Bookings can be made online at www.esb.ie.

Visitors are welcomed to the Ardnacrusha Experience at the new visitors’ centre before viewing the impressive headrace canal, locks and tailrace.  Once inside the station, the living heritage of the historic Shannon Scheme is brought to life with animations celebrating the impact of this iconic project.  Visitors have access to the very heart of the station with unique views of the turbine hall and the original control room.

Ardnacrusha plant manager Alan Bane explains that the station supplied all of the nation’s electricity in 1929. “Our workplace is an important historic site in Ireland’s development, so it has been a source of great pride to everyone who works here to open our gates to the public this summer.  The four turbines are still humming, supplying the same 86 megawatts of renewable electricity as when they were first installed. However the country’s development has been such in the meantime that the power station now represents about 2% of total installed capacity.”

Alan explains that construction of the Shannon Scheme began in 1925 and took four years. The work involved 4,000 Irish and 1,000 German workers employed by the main contractor contractor Siemens-Schuckert.

Building of the Ardnacrusha power station involved the construction of a 12km long head race canal, hydro-electric station and tailrace.  Water is delivered to the turbines by four large, cylindrical steel structures known as penstocks. Each penstock is 41m long, 6m in diameter and can deliver around 100 tonnes of water per second.

At the time of completion in 1929, the County Clare facility was the largest hydro-electric station in the world, while a national (110Kv) voltage grid – also a world first – was constructed at the same time, bringing light and power to Ireland’s major towns and cities.”

Pupils from Scoil Íde primary school in nearby Corbally were among the lucky ones to experience this industrial and architectural wonder, as part of the early school tours of the season.  Sixth class pupil Grace Finnan commented, “The building is so big. Even though I am afraid of heights, it was so cool to look out and see Thomond Park and the rest of Limerick.”

Abbie Kiely enjoyed the Seán Keating paintings on display. “It was amazing to hear the stories of the people in the pictures and what they represented through the history of Ireland.”

For classmate Liam McInerney the paintings were also a highlight. “I really liked the colourful old posters and cards on display,” Liam added.

The fledgling Irish Free State recognised the need to develop and use its natural resources to modernise Ireland.  The total cost of the project was£5.2m, which was about one fifth of all Irish Government revenue in 1925.

According to Alan Bane, “This was a phenomenal undertaking, and the construction of the Shannon Scheme remains a source of inspiration for all of us at ESB as we face into the energy challenges of the coming decades.”