White Bay Power Station

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White Bay Power Station
NSWGR White Bay Power Station.jpg
White Bay Power Station c.1930's
White Bay Power Station is located in Australia
White Bay Power Station
Location of White Bay Power Station
Country Australia
Location White Bay, New South Wales
Coordinates 33°52′00″S 151°10′36″E / 33.86667°S 151.17667°E / -33.86667; 151.17667Coordinates: 33°52′00″S 151°10′36″E / 33.86667°S 151.17667°E / -33.86667; 151.17667
Status Decommissioned
Commission date 1917
Decommission date 1983
Thermal power station
Primary fuel Coal

The White Bay Power Station is a heritage listed former coal-fired power station on a 38,000 m2 (410,000 sq ft) site in White Bay, in the suburb of Rozelle, 3 km (2 mi) from Sydney in New South Wales, Australia.

The remains of the plant can be clearly seen at the western end of the Anzac Bridge on the junction of Victoria Road and Roberts Street. The station has been inactive for a number of years and the site is now inaccessible to the general public.

The station is often wrongly referred to as the Balmain Power Station, a plant originally located in Iron Cove, which has since been demolished.


To satisfy the power requirements for the expansion of the Sydney tram and rail network, the New South Wales Government Railways began the first phase of work on The White Bay Power Station in 1912. The plant, constructed in the Federation Anglo-Dutch architectural style, was fully operational from 1917 but two further phases of development, 1923–1928 and 1945–1948, saw the station expand even further. It remained under the control of the department until 1953 when the newly created Electricity Commission of NSW took over. Ownership moved to Pacific Power when NSW electricity was deregulated in 1995.

White Bay was the longest serving of Sydney's metropolitan power stations and ceased production on Christmas Day in 1983. During the 1990s, the site was decontaminated, asbestos was removed and the majority of the remaining machinery taken away. In 2000, the plant was sold to the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) for around A$4m.

The SHFA has produced a conservation management plan for the White Bay area and this was endorsed by the NSW Heritage Council in 2004. The future of the site, the now derelict buildings and the remaining contents remains uncertain.

SHFA is undertaking conservation works including roof repairs to the buildings to make them weatherproof and reduce further degradation to the remaining internal plant and equipment.[1]


White Bay Power Station boasted an interesting mixture of equipment, including 25 Hertz and 50 Hz alternators, mostly from British manufacturers.

Units 1 to 3 and temporary no. 4 - 25 Hz[edit]

Former control room.

The earliest plant comprised three 750 rpm 25 Hz turbo-alternators from Willans & Robinson of Rugby and Dick, Kerr of Preston, England with a continuous rating of 8.7 MW and a two-hour rating of 10.5 MW. The first unit was tested in 1913, before the buildings that housed it were completed. The second set was installed in 1917. Delivery of the third Dick, Kerr unit was delayed, and it was initially installed at Ultimo Power Station upon arrival from England in 1914. Owing to the delay of the third Dick, Kerr unit, a single Curtis 7.5 MW turbo-alternator from General Electric of Schenectady, New York, USA was brought into temporary use in 1917 in the unit number four position. The third Dick, Kerr unit was transferred from Ultimo to White Bay as unit no. 3 in 1918, giving the station an initial capacity of 28.5 MW. Steam was supplied by 8 Babcock & Wilcox,WIF long drum, chain grate, boilers. They each produced 30,000 lb/hour at a pressure of 205 psi and a temperature of 588 °F. Unit no. 1 was decommissioned in 1944, but its alternator was reconfigured for use as a synchronous condenser, for correction of power factor in the 25 cycle per second grid. The other 2 sets were scrapped by 1948.

Units 4 and 5 - 25 Hz[edit]

The temporary General Electric unit was removed in the early 1920s to accommodate the expansion of the station as originally planned. In 1924, a 1,500 rpm 25 c/s turbo-alternator from English Electric Australia having a continuous rating of 18.75 MW was brought into use as the new unit no. 4, followed by a second identical unit (no. 5) in 1925. Another 8 Babcock &Wilcox, balanced draught, cross tube marine type boilers were built. They each produced 70,000 lb/hour at 215 psi and 600degF were installed in the 'A' boiler house. This was the end of the first stage of construction, with five 25 Hz turbo-alternators in final configuration, for 58.5 MW.

Turbo-alternator no.2 were retired in 1946 along with the first 4 boilers. The no. 4 machine was removed in 1951 and no. 5 removed in 1955. In 1952 the rest of the 'A' boilers were removed to make room for 'C' station. All 25 Hz equipment had been removed by 1958, coinciding with the gradual closure of the Sydney tram network.

Units 6 to 9 - 50 Hz - 86 MW[edit]

In 1926, the first 50 cycle equipment was brought into use. This comprised three Australian General Electric turbines with British Thomson-Houston alternators which ran at 1,500 rpm, with a continuous rating of 22 MW, they were numbered 6, 7 and 8. Steam was supplied by 9 Babcox and Wilcox CTM chain grate boilers. Each boiler produced 80,000 lbs/hour at a pressure of 275 psi and a temperature of 640 deg F. In 1928, a single 20 MW unit supplied by Parsons was brought into use (no.9), giving the second stage (B Station) a capacity of 86 MW, and the station a total of 144.5 MW. The BTH units experienced a number of turbine blade and ring failures from the late 1940s. Following the completion of the third stage (q.v.) in 1958, units 6 to 9 saw occasional emergency use and were decommissioned in June 1975.

Third stage - new units 1 and 2 - 50 Hz - 100 MW[edit]

A 50 MW, 50 cycle turbo-alternator from Parsons was commissioned in 1951 (no. 1), followed by a second identical unit in 1955 (no. 2). These two sets were erected on the 'A' station site and all 25 Hz equipment had been removed during this third stage of development in 1948. Steam was supplied from 4 Babcock + Wilcox pulverized coal high pressure boilers. Each boiler produced 225,000 lb/hour at 650PSI and 840degF. The No.5 turbo-alternator, an English Electric 18.75 MW 25 Hz, continued to operate for some time afterwards, using steam diverted from the new high pressure boilers. Owing to delays in boiler installation, the second 50 MW Parsons unit, which was in place from 1955, was not fully operational until 1958. By that time, the power station was unrecognizable from its original appearance. The capacity of the third stage of development was 100 MW, bringing the total to 186 MW, although this maximum was rarely attained. As the Electricity Commission of New South Wales built new power stations, White Bay became a peak load supplier.

Units 6 to 9 were decommissioned in 1975 and removed, whereafter only the 50 MW Parsons units remained. Thenceforth, the remaining units saw intermittent use; their last intensive use was during power shortages in 1982. The entire power station was closed permanently on 25 December 1983. Like Pyrmont, which was also fitted with 50 MW turbo-alternators in the 1950s, some of the generating equipment at White Bay saw little more than twenty years of regular use before decommissioning.

Recent uses[edit]

White Bay Power Station Administration Entrance

The site was a popular venue for photographers and film and television productions. Productions at the power station include The Matrix Reloaded, Red Planet and a number of Australian television series, including Water Rats, and advertisements. A metal staircase constructed during the making of The Matrix Reloaded remains in the boiler house. It was used in 2012 as a filming site for The Great Gatsby.

Occasional licensed guided tours of the plant have been arranged by organisations such as the Historic Houses Trust and Australia ICOMOS.

One of each piece of power plant machinery remains on the site to demonstrate the process of generating power from coal should public tours or redevelopment ever take place in the future.[2]

The site forms part of the New South Wales Government's Bays Precinct urban renewal area. Google had expressed interest in working with the government to redevelop the site, but pulled out in April 2017.[3]

See also[edit]




  • State Records NSW, Electricity Commission of New South Wales, Agency Detail
  • "Leichhardt: On the margins of the city", Allen & Unwin, 1997, ISBN 1-86448-408-X.
  • New South Wales Government Heritage Register; White Bay Power Station; Accessed October 2006; [2]
  • O'Brien, G; The power has flickered, but the spark of the future is lit; Sydney Morning Herald; 26/11/03; [3]

External links[edit]