In the early to mid-1900s, unstable economic situations in Switzerland and the surrounding area hindered the efforts to supply the requisite electrical demands. During the Second World War the demands increased; in 1942 a concrete plan fell into stable hands. However it was not until 1950, that the project put forth by Hans Hofmann was accepted. On 29 August 1950, the power plant with four turbines was born and became operational in 1954. Today the power station in Birsfelden produces 17% of the total energy needs of the greater Basel region. It is the largest of 12 hydropower plants between the Bodensee (Lake Konstanz) and the Basel border, and the largest in Switzerland. The four turbines annually produce an average of 565 gigawatt hours of energy. There are no environmental risks and it is all renewable energy.
The fact that the energy plant could not be built until a lock installation for the water traffic between Basel and Augst was constructed explains, to a certain degree, the delay. The number of ships passing through the locks varies daily, depending on traffic, the weather and the level of the Rhine. The highest number is 49, each within a time frame of 20 minutes. The maximum amount of water required to fill one of the two locks is 32’900 m³. Passage is toll free.
The mechanics of the locks is a continual fascination for the numerous pedestrians and bicyclists passing by; for some it is even a planned destination. Architect Hans Hofmann’s philosophy was to avoid designing a heavy, enclosed structure that would hide the turbines, but rather to introduce a glass edifice offering an open view, blending with Nature’s landscape and producing a serene and cheerful atmosphere. This he accomplished.
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Type: Infrastructure, Dam
Operator: Power station Birsfelden AG
Maximum Capacity: Approx. 100 megawatts
Engineers: Ingenieurbureau A. Aegerter - Dr. O. Bosshardt AG
Landscape: Landschaftsgestaltung Richard Arioli