ESB Ardnacrusha Power Station: 9 am

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Ardnacrusha Power Station

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Global Visionaries: Showcasing Limerick as a global crossroads where visionary people and places resonate.

Tours of the recently refurbished visitor's centre, headrace canal, locks and tailrace.

The potential for harnessing power on the River Shannon had long been recognised with plans dating back to a report (1844) published by Sir Robert Kane (1809-90), a Dublin-born chemist. A later proposal, known as "Frazer's Scheme", was inspired by similar work at Niagra Falls and was endorsed under the Shannon Water and Electric Power Act, 1901. As the cost was seen as prohibitive, however, the project was never realised.

The present scheme eventually came to fruition through the exertions of Dr. Thomas Aloysius McLaughlin (1896-1971), a Drogheda-born engineer. Having graduated from University College Dublin in 1916, McLaughlin lectured with Professor Frank Sharman Rishworth (1876-1960) in the Department of Civil Engineering at University College, Galway, and thereafter relocated to Berlin in 1922, joining the firm of Siemens-Schukertwerke to attain practical experience in the design and construction of hydro-generating systems.

Work on the project, which would officially be known as the Shannon Scheme, began in 1925 and the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), which would take over responsibility for the station, was established in 1927 by Patrick McGilligan (1889-1979), the succeeding Minister for Industry and Commerce. Despite a major labour dispute, a penalty clause in the contracts ensured that work was completed on time in 1929 with only a comparatively minor budget overrun.

At the time of completion, the station at Ardnacrusha had the distinction of being the largest hydroelectric station in the world although that title would quickly be conceded to the Boulder Dam, latterly known as the Hoover Dam, begun in 1930. Its importance in supporting the economy of a new independent Ireland cannot be overstated with the generating station intrinsically linked to rural electrification on the 1930s. The iconic status of the Shannon Scheme for the new state is highlighted by paintings by Sean Keating RHA (1889-1977) of the site under construction.

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