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Odessa built the first alternate current energy plant in the Russian Empire


Electricity came to South Palmyra for the first time in 1880, but its power plant was built in 1887. The first coal-fired power station in Europe had been inaugurated in London in 1882, on a project of Thomas Edison.


The first time they tried to use electricity to illuminate Odessa was in 1880: 10 lanterns with Yablochkov’s candles were installed on Primorsky Boulevard. Until that moment, for almost a hundred years in a row, Odessa had lived without electricity, interrupted by either greasy or gas lighting.

Unfortunately, that attempt was unsuccessful. Other attempts to electrify Enny’s brewery, Weinstein’s mill, and other smaller projects ended in failure. Only in 1884, at an exhibition organised in Odessa, two foreign companies widely used electricity to illuminate the territory and pavilions.

The building of the first power plant of the city was closely connected with the construction of the new City Opera Theater and, consequently, the need for its lighting.

in 1887, as many as five electrical companies fought for the right to equip the Odessa theater according to the latest progress: Siemens and Halske from Germany, Gants and Co. from Budapest, Krementsky and Co. from Vienna, Edisson from Paris and Rebikov from Moscow. For purely economic reasons, the City Duma gave preference to the Hungarian firm Ganz & Co.

According to the project, 1600 glow lamps with 16 candles each, 504 lamps with 50 candles and 11 arc lamps were required to illuminate the theater. Since the operating voltage of the network was 56V, step-down transformers of the Tsipors type were installed in the theater, and the power plant was supposed to be the generating source of electricity.

A plot of land was allocated for the construction of the first alternating current power plant in Odessa, at 10 Staroportofrankovskaya Street.

On October 1, 1887, the Odessa power plant TsES-1 was already completed and ready for operation. The voltage from the power plant to the City Theater was supplied through a two-circuit high-voltage line, two and a half kilometers long, suspended on wooden poles.

This power plant was a progressive construction for its time. It had four water-tube boilers with a total capacity of 5 tons of steam per hour, as well as two synchronous generators with a total power of 160 kW at a terminal voltage of 2 kV and a frequency of 50 Hz. From the switchboard, energy was fed into a 2.5 km line leading to the theater’s transformer substation, where the voltage was reduced. The equipment of the power plant was so perfect for its time that, despite the fact that imported British coal served as fuel, the cost of electricity was lower than at later St. Petersburg and Moscow power plants. Fuel consumption was 1.4 kg/kWh (at St. Petersburg power plants: 3.9-5.4 kg/kWh).

“Essays on the history of electrical engineering”, by O. Veselovsky and Y. Shneiberg

In addition to the City Theater, Gants & Co, at the insistence of the City Duma, undertook to electrify another six hundred glow lamps for private consumers. In the attics of the houses of private subscribers, who supplied electricity, special step-down transformers were installed, to which an entrance was made from the power transmission line TsES-1. Among these, the largest consumer was the Grand Hotel, which was illuminated by as many as 300 lamps. The cost of electricity was then 2.2 kopecks per hour of operation of a 16-watt light bulb.

Thus, the “LEP CES-1 – Theater” was the first high-voltage power line built in Odessa, and the CES-1 itself became the first alternating current power plant not only in Odessa, but also in the Russian Empire as a whole. Experts from all over Europe began to study the Odessa “electrical experience”.

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