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  28.08.2020, 07:00h

Skradinski buk waterfall and Šibenik at the top of civilization: 125 years since the first hydroelectric power plant on the Krka River

On August 28, 1895, the first complete alternating current power system in Croatia was put into operation

At the end of the 19th century, before other world capitals, Šibenik received electric lighting. t was a complete system for the production, transmission, and distribution of multiphase alternating current, which consisted of the Krka Hydroelectric Power Plant at the Skradinski buk waterfall, and transmission lines from the Krka River to Šibenik and the consumers there. This event happened 125 years ago and changed the history of mankind, as a step on a path that changed the way all people live. Skradinski buk waterfall and Šibenik were then at the top of civilization. Public Institute of Krka National Park presents and valorizes its valuable cultural and historical heritage, which includes industrial plants. On the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the first hydroelectric power plant on the Krka River starting to work, the Krka National Park has opened an exhibition about Industrial Architecture on the Krka River. As a permanent exhibition, it has been opened in the mill at Skradinski buk waterfall and visitors can see it, as well as the remains of the hydroelectrical power plant itself.

Water has its own energy, which is created by its fall and can be put to use. Man discovered this early: people used the power of water in 6th millennium BC, for irrigation in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.  In India and ancient Rome, the power of water powered mills and grain mills. In the 1930s in America, the power of water was used to transport barges through canals, and with the development of railroads, these canals were modified into small hydropower plants. In those years, researcher James B. Francis constructed a closed reaction turbine, which is still widely used today. Man has always wanted to turn the strong waters of the Krka River into useful work. After the mills, which have been known in this area since antiquity, at the end of the 19th century, the water power of the Krka River began to be used for the first industrial plants hydroelectric power plants. 

Along the course of the Krka River, from 1895 to 1911, four hydroelectric plants were constructed on the river: Krka HPP (1895) and Jaruga HPP (1904) at Skradinski buk, Roški slap HPP (1911) and Miljacka HPP (1907). Plans were also in place to build two additional hydropower plants at Skradinski buk and Bilušića buk, but these were never constructed. Today, three of these four plants continue to generate electricity and are part of the single electrification system of the Republic of Croatia.

On the 28 August 1895, the first integral alternating current electro energetic system in Croatia was put in operation. According to the articles in the newspaper at the time, the electric lighting in Šibenik was lit at around 8 pm, and as it was mostly placed in places where there were kerosene lanterns, almost all the city streets were lit. Besides the public lighting of Šibenik, the hydroelectric power plant supplied mills, oleiferous plants, and pasta manufacturing plants with electrical power, while the theatre, alongside coffee houses, hotels and first private houses got connected to the grid later.

The power plant belonged to the company “Šupuk and Meichsner – First certified electric power plant in Dalmatia “Krka”. In 1913, the work of the old hydroelectric power plant was suspended and 3,2 m³/s of water used by the power plant was given to the nearby HEP Jaruga, a property of SUFID, which had been put in operation in 1904.