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Pioneering power plant

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 25, 2012

WHEN J W Burr was appointed Swansea Borough's electrical engineer in 1914, the power station on the Strand was struggling with a 23-megawatt output to meet the growing demand for electricity.

Mr Burr set in motion the largest engineering project in Wales, the construction from 1931 to 1935 of an electricity generating station on the east side of Kilvey Hill at a cost of £1.4 million — Tir John Power Station.

Unemployment relief schemes in the 1930s enabled Swansea Corporation to build a main drainage scheme, the new Guildhall in Victoria Park, and Tir John, at the time the largest power station in Britain, with a total output of 155 megawatts.

Connected to the National Grid, it generated electricity at the cheapest rate ever supplied to a British power station – using anthracite duff, a waste product from the washing of mined coal at the pit-head.

An agreement with the Great Western Railway Company enabled sea water for cooling the power station to be drawn from the King's Dock through an underground tunnel and, after passing through the power station's condensers, to be returned through another tunnel to the larger Queen's Dock.

Around six million gallons of water per hour was required, though every two years the power station had to close for a week to remove tons of mussels clogging the inlet tunnel. Tir John escaped war damage, although one bomb did fall into Crymlyn Bog.

Throughout the 1950s more than 400 people were employed at the power station, but in 1967 it was converted to oil burning, with the huge Llandarcy oil refinery nearby.

Just a few years later the Opec oil embargo and the substantial escalation of oil prices contributed to Tir John closing in 1976.

The power station was subsequently demolished, with the three chimneys coming down in 1980.

Today Baglan Bay Power Station uses natural gas, with a 525-megawatt capacity.

Following demolition of Tir John the area has become a landfill site.

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