Today, the cable car, visitor center, gastronomy, and even the ice cave itself rely on a constant and sufficient power supply. But there wasn't always a 5 kV underground cable and a separate hydroelectric power station plus emergency power systems.
Learn why there is no electricity in the cave to this day and how the power supply of the Eisriesenwelt is ensured - in the past and today.
From 1927: Petrol-driven generator
Since Eisriesenwelt is far from power lines and connections, independent measures have always had to be taken to enable researchers and visitors to use electricity. The electricity company has never provided electricity in the entire history of the operation.
Therefore, recourse was made to what was available on site and a petrol-powered generator was used. In 1927, it was decided to buy an electricity generator and an electrical house system from the Siemens-Schuchert company.
From 1928: Rechargeable batteries
In order to have access to electricity outside the generator, rechargeable batteries were purchased in 1928. In 1932, the petrol generator with a large number of batteries was installed in a wooden shed below the research hut. However, due to the rationing of fuel during the war years, this was only used to a limited extent. Heating and cooking were done with wood at that time (as is still the case today).
An important milestone in terms of electricity supply to the Eisriesenwelt was the construction of the company's own small hydroelectric power plant in the Reichhofgraben between 1985 and 1988:
- Net head: 280 m
- Water flow rate: 60 l/sec
- Penstock: ductile iron 250 mm inner diameter
- Pelton turbine with single buckets
- Generator power: 131 kW
To ensure that the generated (mains) electricity reaches the mountaintop, a 5 kV high-voltage cable was laid from the valley to the mountain station, which remains the centerpiece of the power supply to this day.
Cable car operation: diesel or mains power?
Ever since the establishment of Austria's steepest cable car in 1955, the question arose as to how it should be operated?
Before the power station and the underground cable made a mains supply possible, the cable car was operated by two Warchalowsky diesels (30 kW each). This did not change after the reconstruction in 1977/1978. It was not until 1996 that the changeover to mains supply was finally possible. Since then, the power supply for the cable car has been provided by the grid or the power station.
Renewal 2019 and 2020
A comprehensive renewal of the electrical control equipment in the power house as well as a partial renewal of the 5 kV underground cable (power plant to Zetzenberg) took place in 2019.
Since 2020, the hydroelectric power plant has been equipped with a new Pelton turbine. This turbine is particularly suitable for smaller water volumes and makes the power plant more efficient.
in order to transport the electricity up the mountain, it needs to be at a high voltage. In order to be able to take and use the electricity from the 5-kV underground cable line at different points, there are now a total of four transformer stations for the Eisriesenwelt. The medium-voltage electricity is converted into low-voltage:
- Reichhofgraben power station
- Visitor centre
- Cable car valley station
Additionally, since 2002, there is a 1,000-volt power supply for the cave, with corresponding transformer stations located at Achselkopf and at the cave entrance.
Since 2013, the Eisriesenwelt has had a generously sized emergency power system at the visitor centre. An additional emergency power system at the Achselkopf guarantees a self-sufficient supply - even in the event of a power failure. If the power supply from the grid or the power station comes to a standstill, the emergency power switches on automatically.
It would be possible today to provide electricity inside the cave, for example, to use electric spotlights for illumination. However, a conscious decision has been made not to install electrical lighting. During your excursion, the cave system is illuminated using historical lamps such as carbide lamps and magnesium lighting. The fact that the lamps are carried by the guests themselves creates a unique atmosphere and distinctive charm.
The fact that there is electricity for the cable car and the visitor centre makes your journey and stay comfortable. But for an authentic nature experience, explore the world's largest ice cave without electricity at all.
Book your adventure trip to the Eisriesenwelt now!