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Kelenföld Power Plant

The Kelenföld Power Plant, more than a hundred years old, has been operating at a high technical level since its foundation. Modernization has always followed economic and technological changes. Although the transformation house protected by law against demolition was shut down more than ten years ago energy production continues.

Kelenföld Power Plant from Kopaszi levee Photo: funiQ

The decision about building the plant was made in 1911. Selection criteria included easy accessibility, water supply, large quantity of available coal, sparse population. Initially, Soroksár was also a candidate, however, access to Kelenföld port and prevailing wind direction made Kelenföld a better choice.

The plant started operation in 1914. Plans of university professor Kálmán Reichl allowed for building a state-of-the-art facility. Instead of piston steam engines steam turbines were used to power generators producing electricity (10 Kw, 3 phase, 50Hz). Coal burning in low pressure furnaces conformed to industry standards of the period.

Coal was transported to the plant by rail (over 100 cars per day in 1917). Slag mixed with water was taken to settling ponds and then transported by rail. Taking coal from cars to furnaces was automated reducing human exposure to coal dust. For economical reasons low quality coal from mines around Tatabánya was used. Low quality coal was inappropriate for household use and just like in the case of dust coal the high technological level of the Kelenföld Power Plant allowed for utilizing it.

In the meantime low prices led to a higher consumption. Higher needs required the installation of additional furnaces and turbines. By WW2 19 furnaces powered 8 turbines had been working at 38 bar producing 30kW electricity.

Fortunately, WW2 did not damage the plant seriously. Bombs targeted to destroy the connecting railway bridge hit the site but after the war production rapidly reached pre-war level.

Only few current residents of Újbuda know about the tunnel connecting the plant with Pest under the Danube. Military experts were aware of the hazards that air raids posed as high voltage cables stretched across the bridge exposed to bomb attacks. As a precautionary step, the tunnel was designed in 1934 and constructed from 1940 to 1943. Similarly to bridges the demolition of the tunnel was prepared by the retreating German troops thanks to Colonel Gaszton Hámory and engineer András Dunay Germans agreed to limit the extent of destruction. The 10 kW cable that finally survived was sufficient to restore the power plant taking electricity from another power plant in District 13. This allowed for restarting electricity and water supply in Buda, facilitating post-siege consolidation.

Industrialization of the 1950s brought a vast change in the life of Kelenföld Power Plant. Changing fuel and function highly determined directions of development. Coal and oil was replaced by natural gas. The new function of the power plant was to provide hot water for households, however, electricity production capacity partly remained.

Between 1962 and 1972 condensing turbines were replaced by back pressure turbines and hot water supply got more secure. The first gas turbine of the country was installed here in 1972 that greatly contributed to electricity production in the country. By 1980 coal had absolutely been out of use and the district heating system of Kelenföld had been finished.

In 1995, the next major step was taken in technological development when a more than 100 Mw gas turbine and a heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) were installed enhancing energy efficiency. In 2007, a water treatment system was built and in 2010 additional turbines started. These developments resulted in a highly environment friendly operation.

The power plant uses piped natural gas as primary fuel but has secondary reserves of oil (5000 cubic meter). The power plant serves as the district heating center for Őrmező, Gazdagrét and Lágymányos Residential Area under the management of Budapest Power Plant Ltd.

The most renowned edifice of the facility, the transformer house was built in the early 1930s and closed in 2005. The glass-roofed control room inside by plans of Virgil Borbíró is a world famous monument of art deco industrial design.

Access to the building room is granted by a glass-walled external stairway. It is made up by large halls and narrow corridors. Old control boxes on the first floor, old machines behind protective grids on the second.

The control room is a popular filming location. Its unique atmosphere has amazed more directors. There is no lighting inside only through the glass ceiling and bull’s eye window. The control room was featured in various films and series, e.g. NBC’s Dracula, Chernobyl Diaries and Spy.

Recommended tours

An architecture tour in Újbuda This route helps to discover a selection of 20th century architectural attractions of the district, especially those that reopened with a new function after having lost their old one: bus station transformed into a restaurant and café, or a gearbox factory turned into a supermarket.