ESB celebrates 90 years by opening Ardnacrusha to school and public tours

  • School tours to run until 30 June while public tours to run during July and August
  • All bookings can be made online via
  • Pupils of sixth class in Scoil Íde, Corbally, Limerick among the first visitors today

ESB is opening the gates of the historic Ardnacrusha Power Station to schools and the general public for a unique visitor experience into Ireland’s first national hydro-electric station in Co. Clare.

ESB first began facilitating tours from the general public in June 1928 and welcomed over 85,000 visitors within the first nine months. To mark the 90th anniversary of its foundation, ESB is delighted to revive this tradition and are running dedicated school and public tours during the summer months.

School group visits are being facilitated until 30 June with public tours taking place from 1 July to 31 August 2017. The guided tours can accommodate groups of up to 30 people and runs for approximately 90 minutes. All bookings can be made online here.

Visitors are welcomed to the Ardnacrusha Experience at the newly refurbished visitors’ centre before going out on site to view the impressive headrace canal, locks and tailrace. Once inside the station, the living heritage of Shannon Scheme is brought to life through a series of animations which celebrate the history and impact of this iconic project. Visitors are given access to the very heart of the station with unique views of the turbine hall and a visit to the original control room.

ESB’s Alan Bane, Plant Manager at Ardnacrusha, explains that the station supplied 100 per cent 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 same 86 megawatts of renewable electricity as when they were first installed. The country’s development has been such in the meantime that the power station now represents about two per cent of total installed capacity.”

Alan explains that the building of the Shannon Scheme began in 1925 and took four years, involving 4,000 Irish and 1,000 German workers with contractor Siemens-Schuckert. “It 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, it was one of the largest hydro-electric stations in the world, while a national (110Kv) voltage grid – also a world first – was constructed at the same time, bringing light to Ireland’s major towns and cities.”

Pupils from Scoil Íde Primary School in nearby Corbally, Limerick City were among the lucky ones to experience this industrial and architectural wonder earlier today, as part of the early school tours of the season. Sixth class pupil Grace Finnan says: “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.”

Meanwhile, 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 adds.

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 IR£5.2m, about one fifth of Irish Government revenue in 1925. Alan concludes: “It 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."