Sarajevo’s „munjara“  on Hrid

There are places that take you back to your childhood and, if you return there after a long time, as adults and matured people, memories come flooding back and you have the impression that you have turned into that little boy or girl again, looking full of wonder at everything around you , absorbing every detail. I had the same feeling during my first visit, after more than 40 years, to the former Sarajevo’s “munjara” on Hrid.

This was the name of the electrical power stations in Sarajevo (munja-lightning), and there were two of this kind in the city, the steam one on Hiseti and the one on Hrid powered by water from the Pale – Jahorina water supply system. I visited it for the first time as a student of elementary school, as part of General Technical Education – and it actually has an aedicule with a coat of arms and a lightning symbol at the top of the back wall.

National Monument

Then, as a lover of everything related to technology, I was fascinated by the interior with, in my eyes, huge machines, the roar of water and the buzzing of electrical devices, the smell of oil in the air. Of course, I liked the story told to us by the teacher and the employees of the power plant, about how it was built and how water power is converted into electricity in it.

I read somewhere that the “Dudin Hrid” hydroelectric power plant was declared a national monument, that it still exists, that it was not destroyed in the war and that everything was not blown up, and yet I approached it with a touch of fear. And then a sigh of relief – it’s still standing, and it doesn’t look like it’s in bad shape! So it will be possible to show it to the public and raise interest in this unique monument of the technical culture of BiH…

The first Sarajevo power plant was commissioned in 1895. With the increase in the number of consumers, and especially with the introduction of the electric tram, its production capacity became insufficient and the search for a solution for a new, second power plant,  began. The construction of a dam and a power plant near Bogatić on the Željeznica was proposed, but this was abandoned after an expert from the Andritz company from Graz presented a cheaper and more practical project: “… according to which the water power of the Prača waterworks would be used to raise water without any harm to the potability of that water of a hydropower plant in Sarajevo itself”. It was realized and put into operation in 1918. With certain interruptions in the war and post-war period (1992-1995), it was in operation until December 16, 1999.

In the central area of the central hall, two aggregates are installed, consisting of a turbine and a generator. Horizontal Pelton turbines with auxiliary drives, turbine regulation and pre-turbine shutters, nominal power of 675 kW were used. It is about the oldest existing Pelton turbines in the world! The interesting old control panel is striking as well, partially modernized with some newer switches or instruments, bridge crane for mechanical plant overhauls (turbines and generators), switchgear and blocks.

Institutional support

A group of enthusiasts, members of the Bosnian branch of IEEE, the largest professional association of electrical engineering students and engineers in the world, founded the Association AEEP (Association for Engineering and Energy Policy) with the specific goal of converting the old hydroelectric power plant “Dudin Hrid” into the Museum of BiH Engineering and building a new small hydroelectric power plant ” Hrid” for drinking water, along with the reconstruction of the pipeline that brings water from the Jahorin springs.

The initiators of the project, prof. Ph.D. Vedad Becirovic, Faris Karic and Senad Spahic emphasize the fact that the project is a “win-win” situation for everyone, because a new source of “clean” energy would be obtained without negative impacts on biodiversity, such as “classic” mini hydropower plants, Sarajevo gets new quantities of drinking water at a much lower price than if the same were pumped from Bacevo to the hillside parts of the city, the tourism sector gets another new attraction with a couple of unique attributes in the world, and schools and electrical engineering faculties will get a location where the work of such plants will be presented to pupils and students .

We can hope that their initiative will be supported by the competent institutions and that the project, which in fact offers huge benefits with relatively small investments, will be successfully realized in the near future!

Author: Tarik Dreca