Power Plant One, the First Power Plant to Generate Electricity for the City of Los Angeles’ Utility, Turns 100 Years Old

Announced Date :  Mar 17, 2017

Located inside San Francisquito Canyon near the trickling waters of the Los Angeles Aqueduct sits the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) Power Plant One, a 70 megawatt (MW) capacity hydroelectric plant whose grand opening 100 years ago today marked the start of Los Angeles’ electric future.
With the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913, it became possible to harness the power of the entirely gravity fed water system and use it to generate electricity effectively at little cost. Recognizing this potential, engineers began construction on Power Plant One in 1911.

On its opening day, March 18, 1917, the unassuming beige facility was the first power plant of the Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light (later the LADWP) to service the City of Los Angeles. With an initial 28 MW capacity, it provided more than enough power to serve the entire city of Los Angeles. Today, Power Plant One is one of many facilities used to power the City of Los Angeles – a city with a peak demand of over 6,300 MW.

When it first opened its doors Power Plant One had just one generator, producing 9375 kilowatts, enough to power over 6,500 homes today. The energy was then transferred into the city across a newly constructed 115 kV transmission line. On April 16 and April 28, 1917, Units 2 and 3 were placed in operation bringing the facility’s capacity up to 28 MW, enough for about 20,000 homes.

Power Plant One’s capacity and generation success provided more than enough electricity to meet the City's needs. This allowed the Bureau of Power and Light to sell its excess San Francisquito-generated power to the City of Pasadena, transmitting it over two newly constructed power lines installed between the cities. The sale of this power provided an income source for the young utility and was the first step on the path toward becoming an independent, municipally-owned electricity provider.

Of the equipment inside the century-old facility, one of the original 1917 turbine generators remains intact -- Unit 3 with 10 MW of capacity. The 12 MW capacity Unit 4 turbine is also an original, first installed within the plant in 1923. Both remain in-use today.

The power plant underwent a significant remodel in 1982 and now has four total generators, Unit 1, Unit 3, Unit 4 and Unit 5 producing more than 70 MW of installed capacity. Unit 2 was removed during the remodel and the original Unit 1 was replaced with a turbine that had more power than the original Units 1 and 2 combined – 25 MW. Unit 5 also has a 25 MW capacity. Today, the plant produces enough electricity for 37,500 Los Angeles homes.

“Power Plant One has been as steady and reliable for LADWP’s operations as the LA Aqueduct,” General Manager David H. Wright said. “The facility has withstood the St. Francis Dam disaster of 1928 and the Copper Fire of 2002, and continues to provide the City of Los Angeles with the electricity that was so vital to propelling growth from the 300,000 people present in 1910 to the 4 million Angelenos in the city today.”

To honor the history of the facility, LADWP established some small exhibits on the site in the 1990s. The exhibition areas located both indoors and outdoors, feature historic photos, equipment and information. Each year, a half dozen LAUSD schools send approximately 500 students on field trips to the site to learn about the history and significance of Power Plant One and how it contributed so exponentially to the growth and success of the City of Los Angeles.

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