The history of the Ellamaa power plant

20 June, 2022

Power production became one of the most important economic problems to solve in Estonia after it achieved independence in 1918. It was very difficult to buy oil from Russia due to the civil war there and therefore a decision was made: electricity in Estonia will be produced by using domestic fuels. Ida-Virumaa (an eastern province of Estonia) was successfully producing electricity for itself and this kind of production was scalable to other areas as well. In Lääne-Virumaa they found that peat (an organic matter found in swampy areas) was also suitable fuel for electricity production. Eesti Turbatööstuse AS was founded to find suitable locations for power plants, build them and set up production.

After a lengthy location search and an architecture competition the construction for Ellamaa power plant finally started in 1922. The winner of the architecture competition was Aleksander Vladovski, a Russian-Polish architect who emigrated to Estonia after the revolution in Russia. His design was in historical style and reminded more of a castle than a power plant and the construction finished in 1923 with an official opening on the 14th of May 1923. The initial output of the plant was 1400 kW but by 1940 it had grown up to 8,5 MW. The building consists of three main parts – the boiler room, generator hall and switchyard. No corners were cut to save money and materials.

On the 1st of May 1966 the power plant was shut down. The building was used as a boiler house for Turba village for the next 40 years. No money was invested in the maintenance of the house, so it started slowly decomposing. The decomposing process continued even after the independence of Estonia when the building was sold multiple times and yet it continued breaking down. In 2005 a small group from MOMU visited the building during their location search for their collection. However initially they moved on as the building was in quite bad condition. Nevertheless in 2007 an agreement was reached and the MOMU team started plans to reconstruct the building. The restoration plans changed multiple times during the process because the collection grew as well as surprising issues coming up during the process. In 2017 the boiler room and generator hall had been restored and ready to house the MOMU collection. The third life period for the Ellamaa power plant had started.