When the Shannon Scheme was under construction in the late 1920s, many of its opponents argued that it would be a ‘white elephant’, producing electricity that would never be used. Of course, within years, these critics were proved wrong as demand for electricity grew so much that ESB had to construct additional hydro schemes at the River Liffey, Lee and Erne in the 1940s.
But with most of the economically usable water power resources in Ireland now harnessed, ESB had to use other generation methods to satisfy the growing demand for electricity. To do this, ESB utilised the power of the steam turbine and opened many steam-driven stations throughout the country fueled by peat, coal and oil. By 1979, 50 years after ESB was formed, almost 93% of Ireland’s electricity generation was steam-driven.
Did you know that the steam-powered turbine was invented in 1884 by Charles Parsons, who grew up in Birr Castle and studied at Trinity College?
An example of a such a steam turbine was used at Febane Power Station and this can now be viewed on display at the grounds of Birr Castle. (see photo)
For steam and machine enthusiasts, however, The Steam Museum in Straffan, Co Kildare is a must-see. Set in a Victorian Gothic building it features a wonderful display of full-size steam engines and beautiful model locomotives including a fine model of Turbinia, the first steam turbine-powered steamship. On Sundays, most of the engines can be seen up and running. Located in a beautiful walled garden, the museum is open from May to September. Opening times and visitor information here.