View of Powergen from Wrightson Road

Turning off the lights for the final time at Port of Spain’s PowerGen

For close to 121 years, the power plant located on the eastern end of Wrightson Road has been producing electricity on site. With a mandatory cessation of a power supply contract between the Power Generation Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (PowerGen) and the Trinidad & Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC), the Wrightson Road power plant was officially decommissioned on Thursday, January 14th, 2016.

Furnace for one of the units
Mechanical Workshop and General Electric Steam Turbine Unit N0.4
South view of PowerGen with Rolls Royce gas turbine driven generator No.5 on the left

These may be the last moments for these four, silver, towering giants which have loomed over the city of Port of Spain since 1961, with the establishment of a 33,000 Volt Busbar System. In 1969 and 1974, two Parsons Steam Turbine units and General Electric Steam Turbine Units were installed. By 1984 two 24,000 kilowatt Rolls Royce Gas Turbine driven generators were added. The entire site, including the four towers, will be dismantled throughout the year and into 2017, with no plans at the moment for the future use of the site.

View inside the power plant
Exterior view of PowerGen from Colville Street

Electricity was introduced to Trinidad and Tobago by Edgar Tripp who founded the Electric Light and Power Company in 1894. By 1895, the two lucky buildings to have the first electric lights installed were the original Queen’s Park Hotel, which stood on the present BP headquarters on Queen’s Park West, and the Princes’ Building which was located on the site of National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA).

Princes’ Building (L) and Queen’s Park Hotel (R)
St. Clair Electric Tram on Fredrick Street, Port of Spain

One must also remember that we also had trams in Trinidad, including electric trams, and in December 1886 a posse of local businessmen received permission to build an electric power station and tram network for twenty years. However, by 1901, the company was sold to Canadian businessmen and the Trinidad Electric Company Limited was formed. PowerGen was established on December 23, 1994 and is a joint venture company created from the partial divestment of T&TEC.

Mr. Leon Cooper, Plant Manager of Port of Spain’s PowerGen
Fresh Water Treatment Facility (L) and machinery inside Mechanical Workshop (R)
Parsons Generator and Turbines for unit No.3

I was able to coordinate to meet with Mr. Leon Copper who is currently the plant manager and has worked at Port of Spain’s PowerGen for 34 years. We donned our red overcoats and yellow hard hats with the Powergen logo and began the tour through the facilities. Mr. Cooper proved to be a reliable source of information in describing the complex inner workings of the plant and I was engrossed in conversation with him while trying not to lose focus on taking pictures.

There was the deafening sound of silence where one could almost hear the thunderous hums of the machinery and people shuffling around doing their duties in years long gone. As we walked throughout the site there were already signs of the dismantling of equipment, their innards stuffed in boxes. Dust from the street settled on every surface inside the plant reinforcing that nothing would ever run again.

Original Control Panel
The computerized control panel in the foreground in the foreground replaced the massive original control panel behind it

The best part of the power plant was the original control room which oversaw the entire operation. It felt very much like being in a Dr.Strangelove movie where I had the strange sensation that a nuclear holocaust was going to happen very soon. The other points of interest were the various signage and logos of all the industrial equipment manufacturers, the most popular being the Babcock & Wilcox Company which was established in 1867 and continues to be a global supplier of energy and environmental technologies and services for the power and industrial sector.

Various Babcock and Wilcox Company Signage

I would like to thank Mr. Leon Cooper for being an excellent tour guide and the Power Generation Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (PowerGen) for making me feel like an engineer for a few hours by seeing the plant from within its walls. “Thanks” also goes to the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago, Citizens for Conservation and my friends for their assistance in making this possible.

References:

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Josh Lu’s story.