|Historical notes: ||OVERVIEW: The Station was built in a number of stages. However two are of major importance. The first comprising the first half of the turbine hall, the switch house and one boiler house, was built between 1912 and 1917, by the Department of Railways to supply power to the Sydney railway and tramway system. The second phase, constructed between 1923 and 1928, was built of steel framing and reinforced concrete rather than brick as stage one had been. In 1953 the power station was transferred to the Electricity Commission of NSW. A new steel framed boiler house replaced the 1920s block no.1 between 1950 and 1958. The station remained in service until 1984 when it was finally decommissioned. White Bay Power station was the longest serving power station in Sydney, with a maximum output of 186MW.
SPECIFIC: As Sydney's tramways expanded, their power source changed from horse, to steam, to cable, and finally electrical traction (Godden 1989). Ultimo Power Station was built to supply the power for the tramways. It came into service in December 1889. Soon after, in 1904 the Sydney Municipal Council's Pyrmont Power Station was commissioned. Pyrmont supplied street lighting to an expanding private clientele. Balmain Power Station commenced operation in 1909. This was built by a private company, the Balmain Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation.
Construction of White Bay commenced in 1912. At this time the Railway Commissioners metropolitan electric power supply provided the traction current for Sydney's tramways, the Railway and Tramway workshops, part of the city's lighting load and supplied other Government Departments (ie.. sewerage services, swing bridges etc.). The Railways Commissioners Station at Ultimo, by this time comprised seven turbo alternators (36,000kW) and six water tube boilers (total evaporative capacity 580,000lbs). The station was performing to its limits. The tramway system in Sydney at the time was much more extensive than that in Melbourne and was challenged by steeper gradients. By 1918 the need for a new larger, more flexible power station had been identified. White Bay Power Station was to fulfill this role and came into operation (partial) in 1913. At this stage the buildings had been completed but most of the plant had yet to be installed. It commenced operation with one 7500kW, 6600 volt, 25 cycle turbo alternator and associated boiler equipment on temporary foundations (the unit was later transferred to Newcastle). Between 1916 and 1919 two new Turbo Alternators and the No. 9 Alternator were installed at White Bay. These units were rated at 8750M 6600 volts, 25 cycles.
In 1925 the proposed electrification of the suburban rail system heralded a further increase in demand. White Bay was as a result again extended through the installation of two 22,000kW, 11,000volt, 50 cycle Turbo Alternators. The change to 50 cycle frequency was made because it was standard in Great Britain and it was anticipated that it would soon become the standard for Australia. The Department had also now committed to providing bulk power to the general public. Favourable reports had been received regarding the operation of rotary converters on high frequencies under heavy traction conditions, so 1926 an additional 22,000kW, 11,000 volt, 50 cycle Turbo Alternator and a 7,500kW frequency changer were installed to meet increased loading and bulk supply to the Sydney Municipal Council.
Between 1927 and 1928 two additional 18,750kW, 6600 volt, 25 cycle Turbo Alternators manufactured locally by the English Electric Company, were installed at White Bay to meet anticipated load growth on the 25 cycle system. In 1928 another 50 cycle unit was installed to meet increased loading arising from railway and bulk supply increases. In 1931 the 7,500kW frequency charger was transferred to Zarra Street Power Station (Newcastle) where urgent relief was required. This machine was no longer suitable to operate on the systems at White Bay which had grown substantially since original installation.
It was not until 1939 (again due to load growth), that a 25,000kVA frequency changer was installed to tie the 25 and 50 cycle systems together. This increased the effective capacity of each system by reducing the amount of stand-by plant required. During the war years the system suffered as capital was diverted to the conflict. As a result, post war, load demand quickly outstripped capacity. New plant was urgently required to upgrade the system. Therefore in 1948 the 1 and 2 battery boilers were removed along with two 8750kW turbo-alternators to make way for a 50,000kW 50 cycle Parsons Turbo Alternator.
In 1953 the power station was transferred to the Electricity Commission of NSW. A new steel framed boiler house replaced the 1920s block no.1 between 1950 and 1958. The station remained in service until 1984 when it was finally decommissioned. White Bay Power station was the longest serving power station in Sydney, with a maximum output of 186MW.