Riga City power plant in Andrejsala
110 years ago in 1901, the Riga City Council adopts a decision on designing a power plant.
|Riga city power plant on
Andrejsala in early 20th century
The Riga City Council discussed the necessity of a city power plant for the first time in 1890, when the owner of the Russian-Baltic Electrotechnical Factory and entrepreneur H. Dettmann turned to the Building Board with a request to issue a concession for constructing a power plant for residential needs of Riga. The council did not immediately issue a permit and decided to begin by studying the experience of European countries and Russian cities in power plant construction. Also, a poll of the residents of Riga was conducted to identify whether they would like to use electric current for lighting their houses. Most of the poll respondents supported construction of a power plant. Of course, there were detractors as well – The Gas and Water Company, whose business would be threatened due to loss of customers switching to the use of electric current in their households. The Gas and Water Company achieved a postponement of the construction of a power plant for a few years.
|Assembly of a steam boiler at the Riga city power plant in early 20th century|
While the city council pondered whether or not to construct a power plant, shrewd entrepreneurs, who understood full well that the future was with electricity use, took action. At the end of the 19th century, there was a sharp increase in the number of private small power-houses servicing the adjacent neighbourhood blocks – the so-called block power-houses. In 1896, H. Dettmann’s power-house started to operate on Lielā Jaunā Street. In a year, a power-house was launched at the Riga Latvian Society House. One block power-house was located at the Lauvas warehouse near the Riga Dome Cathedral, supplying electricity to a number of banks, the Great Guild Hall, the exchange building, the governor’s palace and several private houses. The German Craftsmen’s Union, the Bingnerhoff’s house, the Olimpija theatre and the hotels Monopol and Imperial also had its own power-houses. The private power-houses of Ņesterov, Feitelberg and Liepiņš, among others, also operated within the city of Riga. 17/19 Pulkveža Brieža Street housed Rihards Pole’s electric power station, which delivered electricity to offices and houses on Elizabetes Street between Antonijas Street and Eksporta Street, to customers on Kalpaka Boulevard between P. Brieža Street and Antonijas Street and to customers on Antonijas Street between Kalpaka Boulevard and Elizabetes Street.
|Blueprint of the Riga city power plant developed in 1902 by renowned German engineer Oskar von Miller|
Demand for electricity grew, and in October 1901, the Riga City Council made the historic decision to construct a power plant at Andrejsala (Andrejosta) to ensure centralised power supply to the city. A month later, the first loan – 8000 roubles ¬– was issued for designing the power plant. Riga was very lucky to have one of the founding fathers of the German power industry designing the power plant project: engineer, constructor and inventor Oskar von Miller (1855 – 1934). His name was well-known across Europe. In 1882, Miller organised the first Electrotechnical Fair in Munich and was the first to transmit electricity along a 60-km high-voltage line between Miesbach and Munich.
In 1883, together with manufacturer E. Ratenau, he founded the company Deutsche Edison – Gesellschaft für angewandte Elektrizität, now known and operating as AEG. In 1884, the Munich power plant in Germany was built based on Miller’s design.
|Blueprint of the machine room and equipment at the Riga city power plant developed in 1902 by Oskar von Miller|
In 1903, the Riga City Council approved the power plant construction project developed by Oskar von Miller. Construction of the power plant and power network was planned in 3 stages. Stage 1 included construction of the power plant building and facility, as well as a cable network from the power plant to Bruņinieku Street. Stage 2 would increase the power plant capacity from 1700 kW to 3100 kW and build a cable network for delivering electricity to customers in Pārdaugava. Finally, stage 3 entailed an increase of the power plant’s capacity to 5200 kW and doubling the total length of the cable network within the city of Riga.
Besides, the history of the Riga city power plant is associated with yet another outstanding individual. The design of the power plant building was developed by the architect Karl Felsko (1844–1918), one of the most notable masters of eclecticism in Riga.
power plant complex
The total cost of the city power plant construction was 1.3 million roubles. The power plant was launched in test mode in March 1905. It was opened officially on 14 May 1905, when the mayor of Riga George Armitsted signed the decision to commission the power plant and transfer it into the supervision of the city’s Company Administration. The city power plant operated with a capacity of 1482 kW. In the first year of its operation, the plant generated 23,000 kWh of electricity, delivering it to 652 customers. Electric lighting spread throughout residential and corporate buildings in the centre of the city. The first 20 electric arc lamps were installed on Aleksandra Boulevard (today’s Brīvības Boulevard) and on Brīvības Street, up to the intersection of Brīvības Street and Elizabetes Street.
Thus, the Riga city power plant started its operation on Andrejsala – at that time being the largest electricity producer not only in Riga and Latvia but also in the entire Baltic region. In the years to come, more and more residents of Riga became acquainted with electric lighting and started using it on an everyday basis. By 1938, 70% of residential houses were lit using electric current – mostly provided by the Andrejsala power plant.
Information was prepared by -
Manager Latvenergo AS Power Industry Museum