Lucerne is full of surprises. Did you know that we have had water mills in the city since the 13th century? Back then there were four mills (a coin minting mill, a polishing mill, a cloth mill and a flour grinding mill).
The first hydro plant dates back to 1887, when three Jonval turbines were put into place near the Mühleplatz. Unfortunately the plant burned down in 1932 and was then replaced by a generator until 1977 when, due to its old age, it was shut down for good. The current EWL hydro plant was built in 1998 and produces 3 000 000 kwH per year, enough energy for 1000 homes.
What makes it truly special is that in order to produce a regular flow of water it relies on a very old fashioned system dating back to 1837. When steam boats first appeared on the lake they were affected by the different levels of the lake, at times running aground because of low water levels. They asked for a regulated water flow, which is when the “nadelwehr” system was put into place. This entails the planting of several large wooden planks which are strategically placed in the Reuss, in part by hand, in order to regulate and direct the flow of the river towards the hydro plant.
That it continues to be used today proves that sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.
By the way fish have been given their own stairway to be able to circulate up and down the Reuss freely.
The EWL organises tours of the hydro plant. You can book by going to their website.