Sitting snugly on the confluence of the rivers Suir and Barrow are the chimneys of Great Island Power Station. The reinforced concrete duo stand side by side, at a respective height of 138m each, on the shoreline of Co. Wexford.
The ESB commenced building Great Island Power Station in 1967 with the two chimneys added soon after in 1971. The stacks have since overlooked the sleepy fishing village of Cheekpoint in Co. Waterford. The chimneys can be seen as a great feat of engineering for their time. Since commissioning, they have dissipated gases ands smoke into the atmosphere from the burning of heavy fuel oil. The power station itself was the first oil-fired station by the ESB to be built outside of Dublin and Cork.
The stacks alone have a huge visual impact on the character of the landscape and overlook much of the county. These imposing industrial monuments are visible from all angles of their surroundings, omni-present in their redundant existence. Although the real impact of the chimneys is only really felt when you visit the village of Cheekpoint. Local fishermen and occasional kayakers seem truly dwarfed by these 20th Century edifices in the backdrop.
After forty years in operation these obsolete relics of an industrial function were eventually decommissioned in 2010 along with the famous Poolbeg power station in Dublin port. The site was acquired by Endesa Ireland who later sold it to SSE Airtricity in order to build a new €330 million power plant. The new combined cycle gas turbine power plant, which was completed earlier this year, is currently the cleanest and most efficient natural gas power plant in Ireland. Much of the existing power plant service elements have been reused with the new facility adjoining it. This time, a new carbon steel chimney stack was built which sits timidly at a mere 60m high, less than half the size of its concrete companions.
The chimneys were certainly engineering marvels of their time and even today, whether admired or despised, there’s no ignoring them. Endesa’s 2009 report1 stated that their demolition would take place in 2015. To date, they continue to proudly stand and will prove extremely costly and difficult to dismantle; as is the case for the chimneys at Poolbeg which may soon be considered a protected structure. Although the chimneys at Great Island may not be as revered as their Dublin counterparts, they represent an overlooked feature of our power generation history.
1 2009 Report by Endesa Ireland: ‘Proposed Power Plant at Great Island, Co. Wexford’. Source: www.greatislandpowerproject.com