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Power Plant History

Providing electric service since April 1887

*Citizens cheered at the “turning of night into day” when the switch was thrown lighting electric street lamps in Crete in 1887. The streets were illuminated by direct current generated by a turbine at the lower dam of the White and Glad Mills on the Big Blue River.

Crete’s system was in operation within five years of Thomas A. Edison’s establishment of Pearl Street Station, the first central generating station in the U.S.

One of the first problems that arose was the fact that “small boys dearly love to throw rocks at the lamps.” The new system was also challenged by more serious problems in transmitting, maintaining an adequate energy supply, and repairing washouts of the dam.

The problem of outages was solved in 1890 by the installation of a coal-fired boiler and a 75 hp Corliss steam engine. The steam plant was located in the building owned and operated by a private water company.





In 1902, a major expansion of the steam plant was made and the system was changed from direct to alternating current.

By 1904, Crete passed a milestone in municipal finance – electric revenue of $2,874.71 exceeded the $2,800 revenue from saloon licenses.

However, Crete continued to monitor its expenses. The electric superintendent paid all the help out of his $115-a-month salary.

During the next 24 years the plant was expanded and improved several times. Power was both bought and sold under agreements with Crete Mills, one of the city’s largest industries.

It became apparent that the economics of generating power with steam engines was not going to remain competitive. In 1928, a new plant with power generated by diesel engines was built and put into operation.

The diesel power plant was very economical and with subsequent additions and improvements is still in operation.

In 1980, Crete purchased subtransmission lines serving the city and one large industrial customer. This doubled both the kWh volume and the revenues.

Currently Crete has several large electric users. In 2006 the power plant generated 1,531,734 kWh. Gross revenue for electric sales for fiscal year 2005/2006 reached $5,529,227.71.

*Original article from February, 1987 issue of NMPP/MEAN Energy News